The Frontstretch: Ready Or Not, Here It Comes : Splitting The Difference On The CoT by Matt Taliaferro -- Wednesday March 21, 2007

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Ready Or Not, Here It Comes : Splitting The Difference On The CoT

Scanner Static : NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Wednesday March 21, 2007


“I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am…a…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 façade.

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

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 — rather than the ten race crapshoot Nextel Cup playoff system — that Mark Martin would run at Bristol rather than rest this week? — 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 — a bump in the road — 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? — 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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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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03/22/2007 06:30 AM

On NASCAR Performance they were talking about how you do not want the COT to plant to the ground like the current race car. To achieve the best aero dynamic balance with the splitter you want to have a “small” gap between the splitter and the pavement. Everyone is so caught up in the old race car that no one ever comments on the fact that nothing that worked on the old car will work on the COT. Including the characteristics of how it looks while racing.
The teams had come as close as possible to perfecting the old car so I think it is time for a change. Especially if it puts more back in the drivers hands. I could careless if its harder to drive. Im pretty sure it drives like a dream compared to some of the tanks they used to race. Its here and its time to get over it.

03/22/2007 09:12 PM

Good column Matt.

Those of us belly-aching about the COT could be all wrong. It might just provide better and safer racing at a lower cost. But I’m still very much afraid that the difference between Joseph Merrick and the COT is that one was a hideous freak of nature and the other was a human being.

The COT just might work. Be afraid. Be very afraid. One word: “franchises.” In stick-and-ball sports, a couple of rich guys don’t round up some sponsors and go play football or basketball or beisbol or even hockey. First they dole out Big Buck to the league for a franchise. Think how much more $$$$ that could put in the France family vault!

I’m beginning to think that the COT is part of The Brian’s twisted vision of NA$CAR as a stick-and-ball sport. The end objective of the COT may very well be to break the power of the owners. NA$CAR Commissars in the Big Trailer like to tell drivers and team owners, “You need us a lot more than we need you.” But with the super-teams, that threat is getting lame. Suppose DEI and Roush and RCR got their sponsor’s permission to just not show up one week? That hangs over the heads of the Daytona Beach mafia as a direct threat to the Evil Empire’s power. So roll out the cheaper, NA$CAR-designed COT. Make the existing teams pour their resources into building two sets of cars. In a couple of years, when they’re hurting, time may be ripe to demand another change. Start charging franchise fees for new teams. And threaten the old established teams that, if they get out of line, they’ll not be grandfathered in.

We may see a day when teams have to pay The Brian just to race in his leagues. And that’s right, I said “leagues.” ISC needs more track dates. A two league NA$CAR is coming. Just like in the stick-and-ball sports. And The Brian really doesn’t care if the fans want it or not.


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