Aerodynamic changes that helped Jeremy Mayfield to a season-best 13th-place NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series finish in Atlanta last week led to a possible season-changing breakthrough during a test at Kentucky Speedway today.

After closing out last season 10th in the 10-race Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, the No. 19 team averaged a 23rd -place finish through the first three races of the season while working with the new Dodge Charger body and adjusted spoiler height mandated by NASCAR. When changes made for the Atlanta race led to improved results, Mayfield and his team made a commitment to further explore those changes by testing during the series off week.

"We started the season with a lot of new Chargers and, with the new rules, we got a couple of races into it and thought, whoa, we need to rethink this whole thing," Mayfield said. "We were trying to do something a little bit different.

"We went in the direction we thought we needed to go because we only had a few days to get ready for Atlanta. When we improved, we said we were going to test our butts off here this week and really figure it out. We hit on something today that's going to be huge for us the rest of the year. It will get the aero balance back where it needs to be. This is definitely going to be the turning point of our season."

He also hopes today's discovery helps to bring a long-awaited close to the adjustment period with the Dodge Charger.

"A lot of teams just had to cut their spoiler off and go racing," Mayfield said. "We had a new nose and a new spoiler, basically, a whole new car. That sets you back a little bit. It hurt us for a couple weeks, but it only took us two weeks to figure out that we had a lot of work to do. A lot teams might fight it all year long.

"If you don't get back what you had, somebody else will. When that happens, it looks like you can't drive because you have less downforce and less forward (bite). The balance numbers aren't where you need them. These guys driving well at the beginning of the year look like heroes. It's just that they hit on a different path."

Joe Gibbs Racing Driver Bobby Labonte also tested today in an attempt to rebound from the poor luck that has plagued him in three of the four series races.

After losing an engine in the Daytona 500, Labonte rebounded with a 12th-place finish in the second race of the season in California. His resurgence was stopped cold when his involvement in early-race accidents in Las Vegas and Atlanta caused his plummet to 37th in the series standings.

The series returns to action in Bristol, Tenn., on April 3.

Kentucky Speedway opens its first of five event weekends on May 14 with the ARCA RE/MAX Series "Harley-Davidson of Cincinnati 150." Season and single event tickets are on sale now. Fans can reserve tickets online at http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com or http://www.tickets.com, by phone at 1-888-652-RACE (7223), through Tickets.com outlets including Meijer stores and through the Kentucky Speedway ticket offices located at 2216 Dixie Hwy., Ste. 200, in Ft. Mitchell, Ky., and track Fan Center in Sparta, Ky.

~ Kentucky Speedway ~