NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow Debuts in Tennessee

Jeff Gordon has seen a lot of changes during his 15 years at NASCAR's top level, and Sunday's race at Bristol Motor Speedway will be one of the biggest.

The NASCAR-developed Car of Tomorrow will debut Sunday, the first of 16 races for the car that is supposed to cut costs, improve safety and make racing more competitive.

Gordon, the four-time series champion, will start from the pole.

"This is definitely a historical moment," said Gordon, who has five wins at Bristol. "Somebody asked me the other day 'How big is this?' Since I've been in the sport, this and the points change are the two biggest things.

"It's a big deal. There's a lot of attention on it."'

There is indeed, but whether it translates into much on Sunday remains to be seen.

Bristol is a tough place to judge the COT because its tight 0.533-mile confines will lead to tons of bumping and banging. And aerodynamics mean so little here, the full effect of the COT likely won't be known until next month when its used at Phoenix International Raceway.

Until then, the drivers can only judge the COT off of Bristol. So far, the harshest critics of the car seem to be coming around.

"Let me just say it's growing on me a little bit," Gordon said. "The look of the car is the look of the car. The performance of the car, I feel we've learned a lot.

"And I've said the whole time, whether I like the car or not, we're going to do everything we can to be competitive."

Even Tony Stewart, who has railed against the car for months, seemed to be softening.

"It still doesn't feel as good as the other cars did, but at least we're decent so far," he said. "I still think it's ugly. They're all ugly, but at least everybody's cars look ugly. We all look evenly ugly. I still don't think they look that good."


ROUSH CUTS: Roush Fenway Racing is working to meet NASCAR's car-cap limit, and plans to be down to just four teams by the start of the 2010 season.

NASCAR said in 2005 that car owners can only have four teams in the future and vowed to help Roush — the only organization with five Nextel Cup teams — meet the requirement.

Roush also was operating under an agreement that allowed him to keep all five teams until one of them lost the sponsor and the driver at the same time. Now the organization has a clear deadline to meet.

"I'll have to sell (a team)," Roush said. "I won't be able to have a vested financial interest in it, even though I'll have a spiritual and emotional attachment to it."

Roush said his recent partnership with Boston Red Sox owner John Henry doesn't make him immune from the rule.


HORNISH DOUBLE DOSE: Penske Racing is willing to enter Sam Hornish Jr. in the NASCAR event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hornish must first decide if he wants to do it, though.

"We are talking about it," Penske Racing president Don Miller said. "I am not going to say for sure, but if he feels like he's ready to drive, we're up for putting him in it."

Hornish, the IRL and Indianapolis 500 champion, has run five Busch Series races as he tries to get a feel for stock cars. He finished a career-best 15th in Atlanta last week, which Miller said was proof that Hornish is getting the hang of it.

"He's finally starting to get some finishes and he's picked it up now," Miller said. "It's a big step to go from an Indy car to a stock car, and I think another three or four races he's going to be really settled in.

"Most of these places, he's never been to in his life. He doesn't even know where the restroom is, really. But he's starting to get relaxed. He's really enjoying it."

Hornish was at the IRL opener in Homestead, Fla., on Saturday night.


GO HOYAS!: NASCAR Truck Series driver Brendan Gaughan went from the race track to the hardcourt Saturday, traveling to New Jersey to root on Georgetown in the NCAA tournament.

The Hoyas last advanced to the round of eight in 1996, when Gaughan was a backup guard to Allen Iverson. He was invited to Sunday's game against North Carolina by coach John Thompson, and will watch from behind the team bench.

"It's pretty amazing to think that the last time the Hoyas were in the Elite Eight that I was part of the team on the court," said Gaughan. "Last time we were there, it wasn't a very good run. We got beat by UMass.

"This time, we're going to get the Hoyas back into the Final Four."