MARTINSVILLE, Va. - The reappearance of the spoiler on the back of the Sprint Cup cars at Martinsville Speedway drew high praise from many drivers because it makes the cars look better.
Where opinion differed is when the spoiler's impact will be felt on the track.
At just 0.526 miles around, Martinsville didn't allow for enough speed for the spoiler to have much of an effect beyond aesthetics. Though speeds will be higher at the next stop, Phoenix International Raceway on April 10, the spoiler's influence on the racing is still likely to be marginal.
That will change at the high-banked, high-speed 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway on April 18, where the aerodynamic and handling impact of the change will be put to its first true test.
"I've said from the beginning that I think going to a spoiler could be a real game-changer," Jeff Burton said. "I think it will affect some teams more than it does others."
A two-day test a Charlotte Motor Speedway "felt like a normal test," Burton said, but also highlighted how some teams adapted much more quickly to the spoiler than others did.
"I don't think the dynamics of that is going to change," he said at Martinsville. "But it could change who is running well and who isn't running well. Any time there is a change, there is a risk of losing the good that you had, but there is also the chance of gaining something good that you didn't have, and that's going to affect every team differently."
In a series where many weekends are spent with drivers discussing what they can do to slow the dominance of four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, that may offer hope.
Besides the record four titles in a row, he's won three of six races this season, and his ninth-place finish at Martinsville on Monday moved him into first place in the points race.
Then again, Johnson leads all drivers with 22 victories in the 94 races NASCAR has run using the spoiler on cars, and he thinks its impact will be negative, especially in a pack.
"What I kind of predict is that the car is going to be more difficult to drive in traffic," he said, noting that's how it was before. "I've heard a lot of people mention that that's going to make for better racing, and I'm just not buying that as of now."
During the test at Charlotte, he said, drivers got a feel for the spoiler, but he never raced anyone, ran side-by-side with anyone or tried to pass another car during the test.
"Texas will be the weekend when we find out what's up," he said.