The Frontstretch: CoT Myths: Busted or For Real? by Amy Henderson -- Friday June 20, 2008

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CoT Myths: Busted or For Real?

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday June 20, 2008

 

NASCAR might as well be racing Sherman tanks.

To hear the teams, media, and fans lately, that doesn’t seem to be far from the pervading sentiment. While the new car does need to see some changes, there are also some perceptions that are simply not supported by the data we have. Some of the perceptions are also true. The bottom line is, the CoT is a mixed bag-but don’t believe everything you hear.

Myth: There’s no passing
Reality: While the drivers may complain that it’s harder to pass with the new car, there is plenty of passing to be had. It may not be for the lead and the television cameras may not show the racing effectively, but there is passing going on.

NASCAR’s scoring loop data, which records the cars’ positions at many places on the track, clearly shows that passing is not at the premium that many suggest. While traditional data only records at the start-finish line, the loops provide a more complete picture—for example, if Car A passes Car B in Turn 1, but gets passed back on the backstretch, the loop data records what actually happened on track—two separate passes for position. Traditional data would show no pass at all since Car B was in front of Car A at the start-finish line both times by.

What this data shows over the last few weeks might surprise people. Last year, NASCAR raced the old car on three of the last four tracks they have run on—Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway, and Michigan International Speedway. The data from the Coca-Cola 600 showed 2850 green flag passes during the race. This does include passes made during green flag pit stops and passes made by lapped cars, but last year’s data did, too, so that’s a non-issue. Carl Edwards alone passed 102 cars during the race. Both numbers were up over the 2007 Coca-Cola 600, when, driving the old car, drivers totaled 1986 total passes and Jimmie Johnson had the most with 96.

Pocono and Michigan showed the same trend-more, not fewer passes, under green than with the old car one year ago. Pocono featured 3452 passes, while the first race in 2007 produced 2406. Michigan’s numbers were 3204 to 2007’s 2847. In addition, there were eight more green flag passes for the lead at Pocono two weeks ago than there were last August, and nearly three times as many cars finished on the lead lap at Michigan than did a year ago.

So while many complain about the passing with the new car, the complaints are unwarranted—there has been more, not less, passing. Perhaps the real complaint here lies with the television broadcasts for not showing more of the real race action.

Myth: The CoT loks nothing like a “stock car.”
Reality: And the old car did? The splitter is kind of strange looking (unless you want to plow snow), but at least the body doesn’t look like a reflection in a fun-house mirror. And there are many, many cars on the road with a wing—but I haven’t seen a solid spoiler on anything but a Dale, Jr. Special Edition Monte Carlo in years. The new car isn’t really stock looking, but neither was its predecessor, so those complaints have been moot since the 1980’s and big hair.

Myth: The new car is hotter for the drivers and there is more danger of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
Reality: Partly true. The new car has shown higher temperatures of roughly ten degrees in the cockpit. This is an area which needs to be looked at and fixed, fast. On the other hand, some teams have been successful in keeping the cockpit cooler. Other teams have not—at least in part because they’re reluctant to add any extra weight, or shift the current weight. In that case, shame on those teams—a lighter car may be faster, but the health and safety of the driver should come first. Hopefully the heat in cars will be addressed not only by looking for way to dissipate the heat in the cars themselves, but by developing a better cool box for the drivers (current models only cool the air to 70-75 degrees) and a better hydration protocol for some teams as well.

NASCAR is concerned about the claims of carbon monoxide. They conducted tests of CO levels in many cars and drivers at Michigan. I haven’t seen any results, or if they did similar tests with the old car. If the results are high, especially if they’re higher than they were in the old car, this needs to be the first issue addressed. NASCAR’s data collection was a great first step, and this is the one area where I do have faith in NASCAR (something I don’t have very often!) to make changes as soon as they know what changes to make.

Is NASCAR’s CoT body style akin to a Sherman Tank? Amy Henderson is here to bust that myth.

Myth: The new car gives Toyota an advantage
Reality: While current NASCAR rules do allow for an engine that produces slightly more horsepower than the GM, Ford, and Dodge entries due to its construction, not every team has been able to capitalize on it. The aerodynamic numbers are virtually the same due to the nearly identical bodies on all four makes.

While the Joe Gibbs Racing engine department has certainly figured out how to use that horsepower advantage to their own advantage, you don’t exactly see Dave Blaney or Michael Waltrip showing up the other manufacturers. Bottom line—there is a small advantage for the teams that can find it—but that’s no different than it’s always been. The haves at Ford, Chevy and Dodge are beating the have-nots at Toyota, and are pretty darn equal to the haves in the Toyota camp, too. It’s not so much about any perceived advantage as it is about teams figuring this beast out and making their own advantage.

Myth: The new car is safer
Reality: Ask Michael McDowell if it isn’t.

Myth: Teams can’t make any adjustments.
Reality: Teams can’t make many adjustments. NASCAR is mostly to blame here and they do badly need to reconsider. Sure, the new car showcases driver talent—to a point. It also showcases the teams that have figured it out faster. But to equate that with saying it showcases the teams’ talents as a whole would be a mistake. While I do think the car should be the smallest part of the equation, I believe that the crew should be a bigger part than they have been this year. I love a team that can take a car that is a non-contender at the start and have it fighting for the win by then end. That is what I have missed the most this year.

To be fair, the teams also don’t have nearly the data to fall back on to make those adjustments, either, even in the areas that they can. They haven’t even raced on all the tracks. That’s tough, especially when they had hundreds of races worth of data on the old car. That part will come, and teams will learn how to fix things. If NASCAR will meet them partway and find areas to let them work, there is an opportunity for teams to shine as they did before. It just isn’t happening right now, and I miss it.

Myth: The car isn’t any good on the tire compounds Goodyear is bringing.
Reality: The car wasn’t designed for the tire compounds Goodyear is bringing. The car was meant to be raced with a softer tire, one that would allow for more grip (and therefore better passing). The smaller fuel cell has this in mind—a softer tire wears more quickly, but reducing fuel runs also reduces the amount of time the tire is on the car—a perfect compliment to a softer tire. Softer tires would force teams to think very carefully about tire management and strategy. They would also make the car handle, and race, better. This one is true—and there’s no reason to not be developing better tires for this car instead of using ones designed for the old car.

Is the new car perfect? Far from it. However, the perception of it has gotten out of proportion to the realities of racing a brand-new machine. When the last car came on the scene, people hated that one, too, every bit as much as they hate the latest incarnation. Teams complained and clamored for changes on that car right up to Homestead last year. When NASCAR changed to small block engines, people complained. When the winged Dodges and Plymouths came on the scene, people complained. They complained when bias-ply tires gave way to radials. And when NASCAR switched to unleaded fuel. Those things all evolved and contributed to the series, once teams had time to learn them correctly. There is no reason-yet-to believe that this one can’t come around-with a little concession on everyone’s part.

Those Sherman tanks? They’d be hell on the straightaways, but making the corners would be a mess.

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chris
06/20/2008 12:41 AM
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Nice article, Amy.

Most of the time I feel like one of the few voices of reason on this topic. (I’m sure a great many people would disagree)

Not Chris
06/20/2008 07:50 AM
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Well Amy how did the cool aid taste? and what races have you been watching???
I am also glad to see your friends are at least writing in now so it looks like you have some fans.

Mark
06/20/2008 08:55 AM
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Myth: NA$CAR used to be fun/exciting to watch.
Reality: Now it’s not!

Myth: NA$CAR used to be afordable for the average Joe
Reality: Now it’s not!!

Myth: NA$CAR used to pack the house
Reality: Now they don’t!!!

Myth: NA$CAR cares about it’s fan base
Reality: Not today, not tomorrow, and not any time soon!!!!

Myth: NA$CAR will be around forever
Reality: Re-read the 4 Myths above……you decide……

Travis Rassat
06/20/2008 09:35 AM
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I thought that was a great article, Amy. It’s nice to see someone take an objective approach to the new car and actually gather some real data to support the discussion.

Personally, I’ve had a hard time trying to blame all of NASCAR’s problems on the new car. The car is what it is. The good teams and drivers will adjust.

With that said, I believe the onus is on the teams to put some more effort into keeping their drivers comfortable – anything they can do to keep their drivers alert through the entire race is going to translate to better finishes. There are way too many drivers that seem to run fine for a good part of the race, but can’t seem to close the deal. I think a lot of that could be related to driver fatigue, especially if the new cars are harder to drive. Having a couple of systems in place to keep the driver cool will probably more than make up for the weight of the devices in terms of finishing well.

Jonathan
06/20/2008 09:45 AM
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NASCAR did not do their homework with this car plain and simple. Should some of the blame be shared by Goodyear? Probably so.

This isn’t 1981 when NASCAR went to the smaller cars and it took some figuring out. This is 2008. You have millions of people watching on TV every week and hundreds of thousands watching in person.

I can’t see where this car is any more competitive than the old car other than at Road Courses. Those 2 races last year were the most fun races to watch last year as sad as that is.

This new car does have potential, but NASCAR did not do a good job testing it. Its BS that they are basically testing this thing during race weekends. I mean come on, the damn template wasn’t even realeased to teams last year until what the beginning of February? NASCAR Should have had the template done 2 years before that and conducting on track test races with the car with test drivers to figure out what it needs and how it reacts during race conditions. You need maybe 10 or 15 cars for this.

Yes, it costs NASCAR money, but wtf was my $500 for at Daytona? NASCAR makes handfuls of money over handfuls of money. The need to invest in the product too as opposed to making teams do all of the spending.

What a joke NASCAR has become with some things for certain.

I think the France that is running the show right now is a joke.

Johnboy60
06/20/2008 09:47 AM
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Great rebuttal Mark! My feelings exactly!!

Kevin
06/20/2008 11:40 AM
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“Myth: There’s no passing. Reality: […]It may not be for the lead […]”

While I agree with most of this article, it does seem problematic that the car in front seems to have a pronounced advantage, particularly at the 1.5-2 milers. I feel like whoever grabs the lead on a restart can then almost always drive away from the field, and the 2nd place car can’t even get close.

Amy, can you determine if the loop data support this perception (i.e. fewer lead changes, larger lead intervals)?

Douglas
06/21/2008 07:46 AM
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HOW STUPID?

How can ANYONE, and I mean ANYONE, print the NA$CAR “propaganda” on the number of “passes” and believe it is a meaningful number?

WOW!! At Michigan there were 3204 “passes”!! WOW!! How exciting! That must have been a hell of a race to have over 3,000 passes!!

SIMPLY AMAZING! BEST RACING IN THE WORLD!

NOT! How stupid!

Example: yellow flag situation, all cars except two (2) pit! those two cars that stayed out pass everyone in the pits, now we have a total of 82 PASSES!!!

ONE LAP, UNDER YELLOW!

A step further, three (3) cars stay out on the yellow, pass the 40 that are pitting, and we now have an AMAZING 120 “PASSES”, NA$CAR STYLE!

How can anyone that calls themselves “intelligent” even remotely consider this as viable information, and repeat these meaningless numbers?

The CoT sucks! And the ONLY reason NA$CAR publishes these phony and misleading numbers is to try and confuse the real issues regarding the CoT!

And writers like yourself jump on Brian’s bandwagon!

How sad!

Douglas
06/21/2008 05:04 PM
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MYTH: All writers know what they are talking about!

REALITY: read above article!

So much for that “myth”!!

Guess we cleared up that “myth” once and for all.

Raul
06/22/2008 06:53 AM
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Forgot to read the entire article Douglas? Big words for a tiny brain, yes, I know. That’s OK buddy, I’ll explain for you. See, the writer was only using green flag data for the pass amounts. The clue to this was when she wrote “green flag passes” in her article. Reading for context is fun!

Also, NASCAR has been publishing these “phony” loop numbers for a couple of years now.

Look, if you hate NASCAR so much, go watch Cartoon Network to fill your lonely Sunday afternoons. Invite a friend to explain it to you if need be.

Douglas
06/22/2008 07:24 AM
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MMMMM, lets see Raul?

Green flag/yellow flag, who cares? the situation and the numbers stay the same under the pitting conditions! (OK, I misstated the yellow flag scene), sorry!

Why would a writer, any writer, repeat this phony NA$CAR propaganda?

One lap at MIS, two cars, six (6) scoring loops, each car side by side, a possible six (6) “passes”, NA$CAR style! ONE LAP, TWO CARS!

WOW! how exciting!

And why do I think that the current “CARTOON NETWORK” now originates on International Speedway Blvd. in Daytona Beach FL.?

Seriously, you can’t really believe that 3,000+ passes at MIS is meaningful?

Well, at least I hope not!

And, lets not forget, NASCAR cannot properly “score” their own races so any data they may provide is suspect! Just ask Jeff Burton! Hell, NA$CAR with all it’s glorious “passing” statistics, doesn’t even know when a car actually passes another car on the race track during the green flag runs!

FS_Amy
06/22/2008 10:37 AM
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OK, so let me get this straight.

Douglas thinks the CoT is bad because racing isn’t exciting. But then, he talks about two cars battling enough to pass each other six times in a lap to comprise the loop data-which is correct-that would indeded equal six passes. BUT-two cars battling close enough to pass each other SIX TIMES in one lap ISN’T EXCITING? Isn’t that kind of close battle just what you were complaining the new car can’t do?!

I guess you must really want to have your cake and eat it too. The loop data doesn’t lie-more cars passed each other under green at LMS, Pocono, and Michigan than a year ago with the old car. If that isn’t “racing” then I’m sorry-watch last year’s races in ESPN classic and wax poetic over the “good old days.”
Complain all you want, the old car isn’t coming back.

Douglas
06/22/2008 11:45 AM
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I knew you would pick up on my analogy of two cars side by side, it simply is how you view it!

Two cars side by side that cannot get out of each others way, and the ‘passes” as counted by NA$CAR is in the inch or so measurements, and we want to call that “racing”?

Watch a replay of the MIS race! PLEASE!

Tell me you watched over 3,000 passes that meant anything!

My quarrel, so-to-speak, is that people repeat after NA$CAR!

WOW!! 3204 “passes” at MIS!

And Carl Edwards “passed” 102 cars?

To me that only means he had problems causing him to pit often (what, maybe trying to “adjust” his CoT so it would turn?) and then “passed” the same slow cars over and over again!

Oh! And lest we forget, the qualifying speeds were some 9MPH SLOWER than the old car at MIS!!

Right on NA$CAR!

(I know qualifying was rained out, but the few that did get a time were much slower than previous years!)

And when I think “passing”! I think of standing on your feet/adrenalin/heart pounding passing! Not the way NA$CAR counts “passing”!

chris
06/22/2008 01:20 PM
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Douglas, you at it again? :)

If you want an objective analysis (I do not actually believe this to be the case…but I’ll give ya the benefit of the doubt) you don’t get to pick and choose the numbers that you consider relevant, and then change them situationally to fit the argument you’re currently supporting. That’s spin. (Or propaganda, which is generally a term reserved for a government controlling the presentation of information to it’s population, and I’m not entirely certain that’s relevant here.)

The way that Nascar calculates green flag passes is not relevant to the discussion. They calculated it the same way 2 years ago, and last year, with the old, ugly, more aero-dependent car.

So, Amy has, as have others, compared Apples-to-Apples. Michigan in the old car had less passing total than Michigan this year with the new car. That relationship (new car = more overall passing) has been true (not subjective…observable and objective) at the vast majority (if not all) the tracks that they have loop data for both cars on.

Nascar also tracks “quality passes” which I believe are defined as passes under green for position inside the top 15 positions. I suspect that the new car would win the statistical comparison in those as well, but you’d have to look at the data.

I’m too lazy to do so, but perhaps Amy can be persuaded to use “Quality passes” when she does a part 2 to this :).

The secondary argument presented as an addendum…I honestly don’t think you believe that faster cars = better racing…do you? I mean, F1 has basically no “racing” at all. Trucks have (in my opinion, totally subjective) the best racing (meaning, most compelling/edge of your seat) of all the touring series.

(douglas, you really do have the most fun posts to respond to…they’re just so…crazed.)

 

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