The Good Ol’ (New) Spoiler

With the March 2010 switch back to a rear spoiler, after two years with a wing, Sprint Cup drivers and fans are, for the most part, pleased with the results. NASCAR made the change for the Martinsville race on March 29, seemingly to please the aesthetic taste of everyone wanting a more traditional-looking car. There were no functionality issues with the wing; fans and racers alike simply thought the car didn’t look like a cohesive racecar anymore with a wing sticking out the back. The newly modified spoiler isn’t as aggressive looking as the wing, and not nearly as pretentious. That’s a great thing though because we aren’t talking about your neighborhood Honda four-cylinders with freshly spray painted body kits (complete with, yes you guessed it, a wing.) Sprint Cup cars don’t need fancy body parts to accentuate their obvious power and speed.

Drivers have noted the spoiler isn’t as tall, which allows them to see better through the rear window. Some drivers have felt the car became less stable through turns, while others have felt more grip coming out into a straight-away. Most drivers, however, haven’t noticed anything substantially different with their cars. There may be slightly more drag with the spoiler because it does not allow air to pass underneath it as it did with the wing. Only the future will decide if the spoiler will keep the cars on the track, or send them flipping during the next big crash. In my opinion, if it looks better, works as well if not better, then there shouldn’t be the need to fix what isn’t broken. NS

A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER!

With declining numbers of attendance and TV viewership, NASCAR is making some very needed changes. The controversial COT, or better known as car of tomorrow, had been a cause of decline. Fans did not like the fact that all the cars looked almost identical except for a few stickers. This situation posed a problem for new fans since it was not easy to differentiate between drivers.
NASCAR has now addressed this by revealing four new COT’s for the Nationwide Series. Fans are very excited with the new designs, and the fact that the cars are a lot more realistic looking. With the new look of the COT cars for Nationwide, NASCAR has announced that the Sprint Cup COT cars will also get a facial uplift to give a resemblence to the newer Nationwide cars.
It seems like a good idea, which is getting a lot of positive feedback for NASCAR. This change is the closest to production looking cars since the late 80′s/early 90′s. In a bad economy, NASCAR is taking big risks by introducing new cars. Hopefully this time, NASCAR executives listened more to fan feedback rather than worry about cost saving measures.
And that’s the view from here.
WA

The Car of When?

The Car of Tomorrow is causing several different waves through the world of NASCAR. The Car of Tomorrow or CoT has been a working prototype for the last seven years, after Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s crash in 2001. Many believe that new regulations and perfection is needed to help make these mandated vehicles to a level of working performance for the drivers. First the intent of this car was very genuine and well thought. Wikipedia explains, via NASCAR.com, “[t]he primary design considerations were ‘safety innovations, performance and competition, and cost efficiency for teams.’” These are all important factors for a team to be able to race safely, efficiently and for less money. However there are many concerns that these are not enough considerations and cause larger problems.

Just a few of the complaints are the dimensions of the vehicle itself. The bigger, boxier, and less aerodynamic body shapes are creditable causes for less speed and moving agility on the track. These are valid concerns with drivers. The speed and performance of the vehicles is more labored and harder to control for a long amount of time going at speeds we can not fathom, though we would like too. However, there are people who will praise the vehicle for different features such as safety, but will criticize for size and lack of maneuverability.

As a spectator I want to see the effort that a team can put into a car within the guidelines. Each team has mechanical geniuses willing to work hard and promote originality within the cars. This is a sign of the times, everything is standardized and boring. Though it does depend on the driver and how they handle the car, it is also about the team and how far they can get the driver.

No room for design ability, just rules.
That’s the unfortunate view from here.

H.F.

NASCAR Nascence or NASCAR Nosedive?

“Nascence”: (n) the beginning or coming into being of something (Encarta World English Dictionary)

Two columns appeared in the last couple of days that were very interesting. The first, by Dustin Long in the Virginian-Pilot on May 11, dealt with the dominance of Hendrick Motorsports. It seems that Hendrick’s drivers, as well as teams supplied by Hendricks (read Tony Stewart’s shop and Phoenix Racing) have been driving away from the competition. In fact, according to Long, 67% of the top five finishes have been teams using Hendrick equipment. Except for a couple of wins by Roush-Fenway and Gibbs, nobody seems to be able to keep up. Long closes his article with “Just about anybody driving a Hendrick’s car is having fun this year”-except those who want to see more racing.

And, in an article in scenedaily.com/news on May 11, NASCAR is studying the reasons for the drop-off in television viewership of NASCAR races-reportedly just over an 11 percent drop from last year at this time (and last year’s viewership was down from previous years). What was interesting was the number of comments following the story (117 when I read the article!). Most were explaining the dropoff by complaining about Fox coverage, confusing times for starting races, not racing on Sundays, and the Car of Today being too “generic”. Some of those providing comments simply said the racing was BORING!

As much as NASCAR can continue to say that the economy has impacted attendance negatively, there is simply no plausible explanation that those not able to afford to attend a race can’t simply turn on the television. So, to answer my headline above, there simply is nothing to suggest a NASCENCE (“undergoing the process of being [re]born”). And that’s the view from here. Jon

P.S.: Further proof? I gave up my season tickets to RIR!

WILL THE CofT COME OFF THE NASCAR ASSEMBLY LINE?

Well, I finished Mark Yost’s “The 200 MPH Billboard: The Inside Story on How Big Money Changed NASCAR” over the weekend. It was a very good “read” and put me onto several topics that I want to investigate further. Mr. Yost closed his book with an epilogue, “What’s Next for NASCAR?” Some of his observations were off. For example, he suggested that the company taking over the former Busch series could be expected to pay three to four times more than Anheuser-Busch did and we all know that wasn’t the case. Still, he raises some interesting topics.

One that struck me was that he saw NASCAR eventually building the Car of Tomorrow and selling it to the different teams. In that way, NASCAR accomplishes two important objectives: (1) make sure all the cars are the same so that no team has an advantage and (2) make MORE MONEY! NASCAR “owns” a great deal in the sport, including TV rights, merchandising rights for NASCAR merchandise, and even NASCAR Images, which controls photography and film. So, why not own the cars and have rights for building and selling them to teams? Seems like a possibility “down the road”.

And, in case you missed it (and that would be hard to believe), a former black female NASCAR official has filed a $250 million lawsuit for racial and sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination. If, as they say, “perception is reality,” this will be a major blow to NASCAR’s drive for diversity.

And that’s the view from here.

Jon

NASCAR’s Wish List for 2008 (Part 3)

Continuing the examination of our “NASCAR’s Wish List for 2008, we explain wishes 5 through 7, keeping in mind the “business” emphasis of the wishes. (Details on 8-10 are here.)

#7: Everyone loves the COT: The Car of Tomorrow is certainly now the Car of Today, at least in the Sprint Cup series. Tests at various locations last week showed that times were fairly comparable to those of the former cars. Most drivers had kind words for the COT as well. If success and happy drivers come out of Daytona, NASCAR’s efforts to create a safer car while minimizing team costs will be an overwhelming success. The fear of IROC style racing will be dissipated, and the fans can turn their attention back to racing and not controversy. It’s a win-win-win for NASCAR, teams and fans.

#6: One of the open-wheel drivers – preferably Montoya – makes the Chase: What better way to show the world that NASCAR racing is truly the best racing than to have an open-wheeler make the Chase. The new arrivals are adding to the diversity of the sport (at least “international diversity”) and can only help to entice open wheel fans to the NASCAR scene. That translates to fuller grandstands and larger TV audiences. And that makes NASCAR happy.

#5: An end to bickering over the 35 rule: We all know the 35 rule was instituted to ensure that major sponsors — doling out lots of change from their pockets — would have representation each week of racing. Despite the many calls — and there have been many calls from a variety of sectors — NASCAR isn’t about the scrap the rule. It’s still about the business of NASCAR, and ensuring happy sponsors is a primary goal. So, let’s get over it and go back to racing.

Remaining four wishes next week.

Can’t wait for Saturday—it’s been a long winter!

Jon

TIME TO CHANGE THE NAME!

1990 – Days of Thunder! Cole Trickle enters Charlotte Motor Speedway to audition for Harry Hogge, the veteran crew chief. After his run, Cole and Harry exchange comments about Cole’s performance. Cole simply says to Harry, “It’s just a stock car” to which Harry replies: “There’s nothing stock about a stock car!”
Indeed, over the years, the “stock” in “stock car” has dwindled but you could still spot a T-bird or a Monte Carlo when it pulled onto pit road. No need to know it was a “6” or a “3”; you could tell from the body style what the manufacturer was.
In recent days several reporters — national and regional — have discussed the performance of the “Car of Tomorrow”, suggesting that further “tinkering” will probably improve its overall performance. Frankly, my opinion (which with $2 gets you a coffee at Starbucks) is that the real problem with the CoT is the fact that unless you see “Impala SS”, “Avenger”, “Camry”, or “Fusion” on the front, you have no idea what “manufacturer” is associated with the car — it’s a common template. Of course, there’s always the driver’s number to help (so why the uproar when it was announced Tony would drive a Toyota?). Besides, if you’ve visited any race track when testing has occurred, many times the cars are simply gray undercoating. Pick out your driver then!
So, I think it’s time for NASCAR to rethink its name—“National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing”. I suggest NACTAR—“National Association for Car of Tomorrow Auto Racing”. Because, frankly, as Harry said, “there’s nothing stock about a stock car”.
Jon

COMMIT THE CRIME; DO THE TIME!

Well, what goes around, comes around.

Can you believe that Hendrick is “disappointed” by NASCAR’s decision to fine Gordon and Johnson and suspend Letarte and Knaus? Letarte and Knaus get to work in the shop during the six-race suspension and even communicate during races via cell
phone and text messages!

Wow, do you remember “detention” in high school? — go to class, do extracurricular activities, practice sports.

And Hendrick is considering an appeal? And NASCAR doesn’t play
favorites?

You be the judge!

Jon

FOUL PLAY?

The buzz late last week was Jack Roush’s criticism of several teams that s-t-r-e-c-h-e-d the rules by running tests at tracks outside NASCAR’s control and using tires other than Goodyear’s by obtaining unused tires from other teams. Seems Jack believes that was unfair as it gave Hendrick, Childress, and Gibbs (the three named by Roush) an upper hand at the beginning of the season, especially with the COT.

Roush admitted that he hadn’t caught on fast enough but said that that would change.

Maybe those testing on tracks outside of NASCAR’s control were stretching the rules, but we all know that in the shop and in the garage, crew chiefs and mechanics are doing all they can — within NASCAR’s regs — to gain an advantage. Seems ironic in a sense when we reflect back to when Roush had five cars in its stable and all were beating the pants off the other competitors. Jack wasn’t violating any rules about the number of cars an owner could have but he wasn’t about to pull any off the track voluntarily.

Yes, so now we’re going to have a four-car stable as the rule. Sorry, Jack. You got caught off guard!

Jon

A QUIET WEEK IN NASCARVILLE

To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, it was a quiet week in NASCARville.

Not many rumblings about the COT (CoRN, etc.) from those in the trenches. No loud racing sounds on Sunday past, although Saturday was somewhat interesting.

A reminder that Mike and I predicted a victory by Toyota within the first seven races — we never said which series, though. Putting Toyotas in three of the first four places on Saturday does demonstrate that Toyota is a reality, regardless of the series. Still, I must admit that Mike and I were really speaking of the Nextel Cup series with our prediction.

More resurfacing (Darlington after the May race preceded by Bristol’s resurfacing now) suggests that the COT might still require some “tweaking” through most of the season given the continuing “unknowns.”

It was interesting, though, when several drivers spoke out after Bristol and Martinsville, stating that they (all the drivers) needed to “quit griping, get over it, and start racing.” The COT is here and it is here to stay! Unlike the NBA players complaining about their new basketball, all the complaining in the world won’t change the direction that NASCAR has taken in terms of the COT.

Whether the fans embrace the COT remains to be seen but I doubt that even a loud noise from the grandstands will make much difference. The key is the previously mentioned “tweaking” that teams and NASCAR engineers do to make the racing more interesting.

That’s it for now — keep the comments coming and let’s go racing Texas style.

Jon