- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2008

HOMESTEAD, Fla. | NASCAR suspended all testing at its sanctioned tracks next season in a cost-cutting measure that should help teams save several million dollars.

The moratorium, announced Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, bans testing at any NASCAR-sanctioned track, including facilities where its low-level Camping World East and West series race.

“Hopefully it’s a temporary situation,” said NASCAR president Mike Helton, who estimated the move will save “in the range of tens of millions [of dollars] to the industry.”

The suspension is an about-face from just a few months ago, when NASCAR considered expanding the testing schedule to as many as 24 days at any track. It also includes the traditional “preseason” Daytona 500 testing, which NASCAR used to promote its season-opening showcase event.

“The ultimate decision was that the best-case scenario was no means no - and it being applied across the board for the entire season,” Helton said. “There are other ways we can promote the start of the season.”

Reaction was mixed among drivers, who generally loathe the midweek test sessions but value the data that’s gathered. Although Jimmie Johnson is poised to win his third consecutive Sprint Cup title Sunday at the season-ending Ford 400, he struggled at the start of the year with NASCAR’s new car and used extensive testing to kick-start his season.

“I think it’s a mistake,” Johnson said. “I do understand and recognize that we need to cut expenses. … Now we’re going to need to focus on other ways to collect data or create simulation programs or machines to create on-track activity and then test at tracks that may not work and on tires we won’t race on and try to find a baseline.

“It’s going to slow things down and make it more expensive.”

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