Scanner Static : NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Wednesday March 21, 2007
“I am not an animal! I am a human being! I amâ€¦aâ€¦man!”
Sound familiar? These were the words of Joseph Merrick, aka The Elephant Man (Well, that was the quote from the movie, anyway. I doubt he actually uttered the phrase in Victoria-era England). Anyways, upon his return to London in the film's climactic “train station scene,” Merrick is ridiculed by a gang of boys and attempts to flee. In the process, he knocks over a young girl and is chased down by an angry mob that only judges him by his appearance. All the while, his peaceful nature and intellect is hidden by a grotesque looking outward faÃ§ade.
Well, this weekend marks the “Elephant Car’s” debut to the world of racing. In front of a stubborn and unable-to-let-go crowd of fans, media, and drivers sits the Car of Tomorrow – Front-splitter gaping from beneath a cavity that once housed an air dam, rear wing gaudily protruding atop a deck lid instead of a sleek spoiler, awkward A-frames, windshield and roof…all signs that point to this “machine” being too boxy for a race car.
Yes, it's hard to look past the deformed dimensions of a race car we had grown so accustomed to admiring. And no, I do not applaud NASCAR for their implementation of a new, safer car, because I believe the safety measures could have been built into the current piece. The reason for the Elephant Car is to level the playing field, and for NASCAR to grip tighter control of a sport built on ingenuity. It’s reasoning very many don’t agree with; but regardless, the car is here. We will all have to look past it's freakish exterior and learn to love it.
With that having been said, I’ll dream that deep in the hollers of Thunder Valley this weekend, I hear a CoT crying out, “I am not an IMSA GT3! I am a stock car!”
Onto the questions…how do you feel about the Elephant Car? Mark Martin's vacation? The controversial finish we're bound to see at Bristol? Let me know at Matt.Taliaferro@frontstretch.com.
Q: Current points leader Mark Martin missing Bristol is bad for everyone - the fans, the corporate sponsors of NASCAR, and the sport of racing. To me, this is just another example of how the Chase for the Cup is too gimmicky and doesn’t really work. Do you think that if the old school Winston Cup points formula was still in effect â€” rather than the ten race crapshoot Nextel Cup playoff system â€” that Mark Martin would run at Bristol rather than rest this week? â€” Rush Rocket
A: The angle you're coming at this from is an interesting one: Martin knows no matter how well he does in the season's first 26 races, most of it would be nullified when the Chase begins, so what's the point of all the stress? Been there, done that, had my heart broken half-a-dozen times, don't need the hassle anymore. Ironically enough, Mark addressed this very question in a teleconference on Tuesday. So, without further ado, I give you Mark Martin:
“I've been planning on cutting back for quite some time now. And just had to forego that plan in 2006 in order to help out, bail out the team I love, the car that I felt very much a part of; the No. 6 car and Jack Roush, who was responsible for most of the success I've had in NASCAR.
“Now, I'm carrying out that plan (I’ve always had). Just had a delay â€” a bump in the road â€” but now I'm carrying out that plan. And I'm not interested in chasing that championship. I've done that for 19 years, and I've had a great career. And 2007 isn't the year to do that anymore.”
So no, I do not believe a different point system would have swayed his decision. But Rush, you're right about one thing: Mark Martin not racing at Bristol is bad for everyone; fans, sponsors, the sport (and I'll throw in the drivers as well). But it is good for Mark, so more power to him.
Q: The splitters on the Car of Tomorrow have me scratching my head. If those are only three or four inches off the ground, what's to keep them from getting damaged or just broken when the cars have to come off steep banking like at Bristol? â€” MJames
A: Three words for ya – Stiff front springs. The teams are aware of the issue and will compensate by running springs that keep the nose off the ground or simply by inserting spring rubbers. Whereas shock travel in the current cars may be in the four-inch range, the travel on the CoT will be 1.5-inches or so.
Then, the question becomes whether the drivers can make the nose “plant” in the turns. If not, the car will be viciously tight and they'll all be giving each other plenty of room. My prediction: The team that can set the nose in the turns, stays near the front, and simply survives will be sitting in Victory Lane. My money's on Jeff Burton and the Cingular / AT&T bunch.
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