NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
In the sport of stock car racing it’s incredibly difficult to predict anything yet to happen accurately. It’s that “anything can happen” nature of the sport that makes it so appealing to a lot of us. Look no further than last Saturday’s Nationwide race when it seemed Brad Keselowski had the win in the bag coming to the white flag only to blow a tire. Mark Martin looked absolutely stunned to have won the race.
But I have a forecast for this weekend and I will bet the rent money, my Harley, the screaming chicken Pontiac and my Jerry Garcia autographed copy of American Beauty I am right. This weekend there will be exactly one less legitimate pass for the lead in the Cup series than there was last week at the Las Vegas Cup race.
And here’s the problem, there is no Cup race this weekend!
That’s right. There was only one pass for the lead I consider legitimate at Las Vegas on Sunday. For those of you who missed my Sunday night column it occurred on Lap 13 when Tony Stewart passed Jeff Gordon. Stewart had pitted for fresh tires while Gordon had stayed on track, virtually by himself, to gain track position after a substandard qualifying effort. Naturally, Stewart made quick work of the No. 24 car moments after the restart. Some readers who commented on the column dismissed that pass as “competitive” due to the lopsided nature of the battle. But my definition of a “legitimate” pass remains the same. It’s when one driver in a faster car overtakes the car leading the race whether it be by hook or crook. Passes for the lead on the last lap are the best sort, and the stuff of legends like the 1976 and 1979 Daytona 500s.
Of course the “official” statistic on passes for the lead is much higher than my count. NASCAR’s latest technique is to lull fans into a coma with a boring race then batter them over the head with meaningless statistics until they believe what they just saw was exciting. In any race where there are extended green flag runs the leader is eventually forced to the pits to refuel handing the lead to another driver. That new leader in his turn must also pit eventually producing yet another new leader. Eventually we’re usually left with one car and driver that still hasn’t pitted, some hapless sap well off the pace who stays out just to get the point for leading a lap. In other cases when a caution flies some drivers and teams play it conservative and go with four new tires while others may choose to go with two new tires or even fuel only. Or in Greg Biffle’s case a team might choose to add fuel to the car with a medicine dropper because they can’t figure out the new re-fueling rig.
Strategy is part and parcel of the stock car racing game and bully for the crew chief who figures out a way to get his driver from 12th to first in the pits, then has his gamble pay off with a caution 20 laps later that brings everyone to the pits cementing his driver’s track position. But that’s not what most fans are paying to see. Strategy is great in the game of chess but how many people watch chess tournaments? It’s balls to the wall passes for the lead that sell tickets in the NASCAR grandstands. Strategy will always have its place in our sport, and the more you understand the sport the more you appreciate it, but to me a fuel mileage race is like finding out you just won a Harley Davidson….only it’s a 1973 AMF era 100 Baja enduro bike.
I’m not only a big boy, I’m an old guy. I know in racing this sort of thing happens time to time. I’ve seen races where there were no passes for the lead. I’m thinking Jeff Burton led every lap at New Hampshire in the fall of 2001 and Cale Yarborough once led every lap at Bristol in 1973. The most infamous case of a rout I can recall is the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington where Ned Jarrett won by a mere 14 laps. Of course that afternoon the big name Mopar drivers were on the sidelines thanks to the Chrysler boycott of that season, and the factory Ford boys were having a field day until they blew up or in the case of Cale Yarborough actually exited the race track into the parking lot at the wheel of an airborne Ford.
A lot of the young-uns who aren’t quite sure who Jarrett or Yarborough are (and think Cale had a brother named LeeRoy) like to throw that stat in my face. Yes, there were many races “back in the good old days” where only one or two drivers finished on the lead lap. That’s mostly because in that era the machinery was far less reliable and drivers actually ran wide open all day dicing for the lead until their mounts failed or they wrecked. For those interested in the norms of that era watch a few episodes of “Back in the Day.” Looking at the final scorecard some of those races might seem to have been blowouts, but they were actually quite competitive events. If you look at the final rundown for the 1979 Daytona 500 there were only three cars on the lead lap when the race ended but we’re STILL talking about that race over three decades later.
So yeah, every year, this year and in every year the sport is still alive some stock car races are going to be real snoozers. What’s got me and other long time fans I know upset is the ratio of classics to clinkers which seems to dwindle every year. After two memorable if not great races to start the 2011 season, Sunday’s alleged race stunk to high heavens. More bothersome still is the fact the reason the race was no good was the same old “dreaded” aero push. (With the NMPA cracking down on writers who break their archaic rules I am now inserting the required “dreaded” before “aero-push.” It makes me sound like I should be on TV, right?)
Most of you know what an aero-push is all about because you’ve been following the sport since back in the old days when there was a Cup champion besides Jimmie Johnson. Give me a minute here to talk to the kids. Go check the mailbox. Grab a brew. Take the dog outside and toss a tennis ball for him. We’ll be right back a few paragraphs from now. (Like Tom Petty once said on his CD, we’ll wait just a moment while those listening on LP flip to the other side.)
OK, campers. What is an aero-push? All of you have seen a markedly faster car closing in on the car ahead of him suddenly seem to slow down when it gets within four or five lengths of the car ahead. You might have noticed Sunday that after the penultimate pit stop Tony Stewart on two fresh tires was able to drive away from drivers who’d taken four fresh tires which would seem counterintuitive. Stewart had “clean” air on the front of his car. Here’s what happens. When a car has “clean” (not broken up by another race car…think of a wake behind a boat only with air not water) the front spoiler works as designed and provides down force on the nose of the car, which increases weight on the front tires, which in turn allows the car to turn at high speeds. But when the car ahead begins disturbing that air there’s less front down force. With less weight on the front wheels they don’t grip as well and the car pushes or plows depending on your favorite term.
It’s symptomatic of a race being hampered by the “dreaded” aero-push that the leader is two or three seconds ahead of the second place who is in turn three or four seconds ahead of third place and by the time you get back to tenth place that driver is a half lap behind the leader. Everybody has clean air on their nose and their cars are handling well. When they go into the corners at 200 MPH the car turns rather than plowing into the wall and reducing itself to scrap while threatening to break every bone in the driver’s body. Driver’s prefer this.
How can I illustrate the concept to those of you who tend to drive about ten miles per hour over the posted limit? Let’s do an experiment. Hop in your pickup. (You’re stock car racing fans so I just assume you have one. If you don’t or yours is a Toyota, shame on you.) Head out to the interstate and get her running about 70. Roll down a window. (Real pickups have window cranks. Sissies can use the power window button but be aware it will be harder to hear your Michael Bolton or Kenny G CD with the windows lowered). Stick a hand out the window, above the rearview mirror fingertips forward. Hold your hand horizontal to the highway. Now dip your fingertips slightly downward. Feel how the wind tries to force your hand downward? Now stick your fingertips just behind the rearview mirror. Dip them downwards again with the mirror blocking most of the air stream. Feel how much less pressure there is forcing your hand downwards? Your hand, in this instance is the trailing car trying to pass the mirror which is the leader.
Aero-push is a plague this sport has been fighting over a decade. It began when GM, so frustrated by the more aerodynamic Ford Thunderbirds, petitioned and got permission from NASCAR to run their “funny cars”, front wheel drive production car named as rear wheel drive race cars that bore little to no resemblance to their street counterparts. Prior to this, GM had had to develop street versions of Monte SS Aerocoupe and the Pontiac 2+2 to race the T-Birds and they were the second most ugly GM A bodies ever produced. They were surpassed in hideousness only by the short lived hatchbacks of the mid-70s which were so brutally ugly, aesthetes threw rocks at them in parking lots.
Ford finally threw in the towel and began racing the Taurus funny cars. This, my friends, is when “stock car” racing ceased to exist. In the glory days of “the boxcar” era (when NASCAR race cars actually looked like their street counterparts which all had driveshafts) the last place a driver wanted to be on a super-speedway was leading into Turn 1 on the white flag lap. They’d actually hit the brakes to allow the second place driver to pass them down the backstraight. A driver wanted to be right on the leader’s tail exiting Turn 4 at which point they’d use the “draft” or “slingshot” to pass their rival. (Again, see the 1976 and 1979 Daytona 500s. Sometimes it got ugly.)
Jeff Gordon has been the poster boy for the “dreaded” aero-push. How many times have you seen the No. 24 car upfront seemingly on pace to lap the field while Darrell Waltrip recited love sonnets and was apparently spanking his monkey? But let that same driver-car combination fall back to fifth or sixth due to pit strategy or a slow stop and all of a sudden Gordon was dropping like a rock, his irritation evident in the rising inflection in each sentence he whined over the radio. Much of Gordon’s success was from the days when the Rainbow Warriors always found a way to get him off pit road in the lead. Yes, Gordon snapped a 66 race winless drought at Phoenix, but keep in mind prior to that last win at Texas in the spring of 2009, Gordon hadn’t won since Charlotte in the fall of 2007. This from a guy who used to win races in bunches of three and four with such regularity it caused the ABG folks to grind their teeth to calcium powder.
OK, everybody back now?
Cool. Just ignore all the newbies with sprained left wrists. What is worrisome about the Las Vegas race is a great majority of races this season will be run on similar 1.5-mile tracks. Thus we’re likely to see a lot more of the “dreaded” aero-push with multi-second gaps between cars and your having enough time to go to the kitchen and make a sandwich before the tenth place car crosses the line after the finish of the race. The new front ends of the Cup cars, while more aesthetically pleasing, is apparently not the solution to what ails stock car racing and produces cranky old guys like me. This problem has been bedeviling the sport for decades now and the solution is so simple it’s a wonder the powers that be still don’t get it.
Make the factories race the same body styles they build, cars available in rear wheel drive, V8 street versions. If your car isn’t as fast as the other makes, redesign the car and sell it to the public. And if you don’t make a V8 rear wheel drive performance street car, go the Hell back to Japan and build some more Priuses (Prii?) for eco-weenies, tree-huggers and Birkenstock wearers. Or race a Lexus. I for one would be tremendously amused to watch a Lexus stock car use it’s “auto-park” function to enter it’s pit stall in reverse. C’mon people. If you can’t parallel park a car at 2 mph without electronic assistance what the hell are you doing running at 70 mph on the Interstate dodging semis? Have you at least signed an organ donor card? (And for God sakes, watch for motorcycles even if it means briefly putting down your cell phone).
Yes, I am cracking wise in the paragraph above, but I am deadly serious about how the “dreaded” aero-push is at the heart of the problem NASCAR has providing entertaining racing. NASCAR got off to a good start this year with two feel good stories at Daytona and Phoenix. Then it was back to reality at Las Vegas. And I have my doubts about the rest of the season.
There’s an old joke about a man who dies and unfortunately finds himself condemned to Hell. He’s met by Satan and told, “You were pretty bad, but not awful. No fire and brimstone for you. You have three options behind these three doors. Let’s have a look.” So Satan opens the first door and inside the room there’s about fifty people standing on their heads on a rough concrete floor. The guy replies, “That’s not for me. I get sick to the stomach being upside down. What else do you have?” So Satan opens the second door and there’s about fifty people standing on their heads but on a thick shag carpet. “No, that won’t work either.” The man says. “What’s behind door number three?” So Satan opens the door and there’s about five hundred people standing in manure up to their chests but eating doughnuts, drinking coffee and laughing. “Well I guess I’ll get used to the smell because this is better,” the fellow says. So Satan sends him into the third room. At which point the demon in charge calls out “Coffee break is over. Everybody back on their heads.”
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Matt, are you sure Tony pitted after that first caution? That’s not how I remember it. I thought he stayed out also. So him and Jeff were on equal tires. Maybe you can go back and review that.
As I recall the T-Birds of the mid ’80s got an exemption from Nascar to raise the hight of the hood so a V8 would fit. Chevy used this to get their Lumina (I think it was the Lumina) turned into a RWD V8 racecar. Then along comes Ford with their 4 door FWD Taurus and suddenly it transforms into a 2 door RWD V8 Stock Car. This all actually started in the ’70s when ground effects were allowed on the cars, and it has turned into one long strange trip to todays “Funny Cars”.
Another good read Matt, and right on.
I now relinquish the rest of my time to the ever dreaded Randy and his colorful cast of characters.
It’s a shame that NASCAR has opted to make the 1.5+ mile tracks the bulk of the schedule. When there were more races on smaller tracks it made those larger tracks more bearable because it was a change of pace. As race fans (or fans of any sport) we recognize that not every race can be exciting from the first to the last lap but at least with short tracks there was always some close racing going on (if for no other reason than there isn’t enough room for 43 cars to get strung out).
(Like Tom Petty once said on his CD, we’ll wait just a moment while those listening on LP flip to the other side.) I had “Full Moon Fever” for years on tape (which of course had to be flipped over as well). When I converted over to CD, I never laughed so hard when I heard Mr. Petty’s announcement.
Funny how despite how many changes NASCAR has made, there is still an aeropush issue. Maybe they really should make these guys drive real cars off the lot. My parents drove a Taurus for years. Trust me – if a driver can win driving a real Taurus, then that driver is getting my respect!
Fantastic column, Matt. However… for the record, I don’t own a pickup, I own a Mustang. With power windows. And also for the record, Michael Bolton should have been burned at the stake for ruining a perfectly good Otis Redding classic with that constipated-sounding wail of his. But you can bet your signed copy of American Beauty that I’m a long-time stock car racing fan.
Nice article, but it will never happen. We should just take the upcoming design change for 2013 and be happy. Unfortunately, the cars will never be anything close to street stock again. I personally don’t want them to look too close to production cars because the average sedan that the cars are based on today are sad to say ugly. I think people long for the 60s and 70s when passenger cars looked a lot cooler. When I see an Impala, Camry or Fusion I don’t get any chills. The Charger looks good, but it’s just a rehash of the original Charger. NASCAR should focus more on giving us competitive racing with as much brand identity as possible.
What I find odd is the very same cars that have “aero push” issues have absolutely no problem catching and passing on the restrictor plate tracks. You would think that with less horsepower and no throttle response the opposite would be true.
The reason, I think, is because the plate tracks don’t require much handling. The banking is so severe that the cars don’t get squirrley as easily as on the low-banked intermediates. But that doesn’t explain why they can’t draft on the straightaway, where being behind would still be an advantage.
As far as running actual street models, I don’t have a problem with that. I’d love to see that instead of these purpose-built race cars that they call “stock” cars. I don’t have a problem with Toyota racing in NASCAR either, as long as they are building cars here in the US. I mean, c’mon, the model Ford uses as its cup car isn’t even built in the US. It’s built in Sonora, Mexico. The Impala and Charger are built in Ontario, Canada. At least the Camry is built HERE. In Kentucky.
You have a Jerry signed American Beauty? There’s a whole column right there!
Part of the problem is they have too much grip. They used to slide in the corners a lot more. Downforce wasn’t nearly as important when the tires couldn’t hang on anyways. Look at the small spoilers they used to use. I think skinny tires would fix a lot of the problems. It would also mean they had to lift at restrictor plate tracks. They could keep the plates and force them to lift, breaking up packs and keeping speeds down, but what do I know?
Matt, it was the 2000 race in New Hampshire where Burton led every lap – the infamous “restrictor plate at New Hampshire” race mandated after the Petty and Irwin tragedies earlier that summer.
Not to be confused with the Thanksgiving 2001 race at NH where Jeff Gordon led amost every lap until Robbie Gordon spun him out near the end (which was the only real pass of the race).
Wind tunnel testing to me is the problem. Cars are built from the wind tunnel testing. When they get on the track to race the enviroment is anything but a wind tunnel except for the front running car, or the two car hook up with the front car in clean air. Does any one know when the first wind tunnels became common use by the teams? You can not make a dog hunt and a driver can not make a car perform acts it was not built to perform. Call it cookie cutter tracks, or plate racing it all means less real racing with drivers and crews making a difference on the track where we are all watching.
Make the factories race the same body styles they build
Agreed. The Lumina was designed to compete in NASCAR against the T-Bird. Hey – if GM was willing to put the car on the street, more power to them. I don’t even care if they use FWD platforms – as long as the silhouette is essentially the same as the street version.
Cars don’t need to go 200 when 180 is plenty adequate, so maybe smaller engines? This would be a good reason to shorten the race distance slightly – to offset the slightly lower speeds, and not make the race last 6 hours. Slower speeds will also reduce the aero considerations exponentially, so should yield more passes and side by side racing.
IMO, it would be good for the sport on a number of fronts… So, I’m sure none of it will happen; well, except maybe the race shortening part!
I’m with Mike. Slow them down a bit and make them less susceptible to aero effects. Stock body panels, minimal aero aides and a 5 liter (305 cubic inch ) limit. Maybe that will get rid of the damn restrictors. I dont know much about NASCAR motor dimensions but I do know a fair amount about small block Chevrolets. 4×3.5 is a 350, change the crank to a 3” stroke and you get a 302. In fact when the Trans Am series mandated a 5 litre limit, all it took was a 283 crank in a 327 block. Instant classic…Z28.
This is the finest (and easiest to understand!) explanation of “aero push” that I have ever heard, read, or seen.
Didn’t they add some weight to these cars a couple of years ago which would also hurt the handling
Why sacrifice safety to run actual stock cars?
Once again, Matt’s jaded point of view rears it’s ugly head.
Stock appearing (as in what is currently being sold) on the outside…. Obviously
Safety does not need to be sacrificed.
Bad Wolf—-Careful when you speak of four door racers. Don’t forget that for the last 2 or 3 years the Pontiac Grand Prix was, in effect based on a four door car because GM dropped the two door coupe when it was outsold by the four door version something like 2 or 3 to 1.
The supposed “brothers” Cale & Leroy didn’t even have the same last name—check their spellings.
Tyler, you almost had it. Matt you’re looking at the wrong end of the car. The “aero push” comes from too tall a spoiler. Let me explain, remember back in the ’90s when the funny cars started they kept making the spoiler taller, well that puts more down force on the rear of the car. You loose the front downforce when you’re behind someone, all that rear downforce makes the “Aero push” worse by pushing down the back and lifting the front. The solution is a shorter spoiler. Go back to the 3” spoiler and it will fix the problem in two ways. Downforce will equal out front to back when you are the second car, and if you’re the front car, you’ll have to lift going into the corner or risk loosing the rear and spining out. Also get rid of the manditory spoiler angle. Let them run what ever angle they want like they used to. Too slow? lay it back and gain speed. Too loose, stand it up and gain rear downforce. problem solved!
Also Matt just a little correction on this one:
As a proud ower of a 1984 Monte SS I bought new they are “G” bodies, and the SS and Pontiac race versions were known inside GM as “G Specials” since they were different from a normal “G” body.
Keep up the good work Matt, I’ve read you for years and many many web sites. Aces and Aces….
Yep….Cale Yarborough and LeeRoy Yarbrough
Exactly the point, only those who know little about the history of the sport would think that two drivers with different last names were brothers.
If you go back and examine the 70’s race cars, what you don’t see is a front valance (splitter in today’s terminology) going all the way down to the asphalt.
This is the key – if you allow air under the vehicle, you do not get the aero push.
The airflow is radically changed, so that the trailing car still gets airflow over it’s nose and spoiler.
It was the introduction of the valance, as well as the other “ground effects” that created the racing we have today.
Nascar thinks that you must have a valance or splitter to keep the car from flying off the track, but all you have to do is put a smaller engine in it.
I can guarantee you better racing if you get rid of the front valance.
Does anyone recall the history of the ’75 Laguna front end? My very foggy recollection is that NASCAR disallowed it because of its aero advantage. I remember it being pretty radical at the time; maybe a forerunner of ground effects and the like?
If you look at the final rundown for the 1979 Daytona 500 there were only three cars on the lead lap when the race ended but we’re STILL talking about that race over three decades later.
The ’79 Daytona race is talked about because of the aftermath, not the finish as well as being the first live flag to flag covered race.
One thing I would have liked to see you discuss was whether bias ply tires would make for better racing.