NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Driven to the Past: Let’s Go Back a Few Years…

OK, I’m not going to tell any stories about back in the day with this writing. I’m going to voice my opinion on what to do about today’s racing and the tragedy that’s waiting to happen at Talladega and Daytona. However, I believe it bears talking about in this space because my personal remedy involves past history.

What got me rolling was Ryan Newman’s flip at Talladega last Sunday. That wasn’t just one of my favorite drivers inside that wheels-up hulk, it was a friend of mine. And I was worried! I was hoping that the radio just wasn’t working, and that turned out to be the case, thank God.

Now, I consider myself a rabid fan of all types of racing, and I enjoy watching drivers challenge the laws of physics as well as gravity, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy seeing the results when they go over the line. I admit I replay the tapes of accidents a few times to see what happened, but I don’t do it to see the wreckage – I want to figure out why it happened.

As others have already written, the next really disastrous incident is likely to involve spectators as well as drivers. Raising the Talladega fence isn’t going to help. The spectators who were hurt there in the spring race (none life-threatening, again thank God) weren’t hit by anything going over the fence. They were hit by stuff coming through and off the fence. That’s a possibility on any track that has a tri-oval or has seating in the turns where the speeds are high.

So how do we fix this situation? Let’s face it, International Speedway Corporation is not going to rebuild Talladega or Daytona, so that’s not an option.

Well, I’m no Einstein, and I admit to not having all the answers, but I’m proposing a step back in time, so to speak.

Why can’t we use the technology developed for the Car of Tomorrow in a car with an older body? The door-filler material, high roof, bigger “greenhouse,” etc. seems like it would adapt very well to what we had back in the ’70s and ’80s. Didn’t the bodies have higher roofs then? If not, what’s wrong with a minimum roof height that’s close to stock?

I know some experts have said that racing stock bodies, i.e. just like they look on the highway, is a bad idea. I happen to disagree. I think people would rather see the cars out there on the track at least resemble what they drove to the place.

One of the arguments against racing stock is that the manufacturers will do their best to build an aerodynamic bullet and make it available to the general public, just like they did in the late ’60s with the Torino Talladega, the Dodge Charger Daytona and the Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird.

No problem. NASCAR no longer uses the homologation system, where a certain number of models have to be built for sale to the general public before it can be approved for competition. They simply have a list of “approved” body styles. If one of the carmakers builds something that’s obviously an attempt to beat the system, they don’t approve it.

What happens when one body style seems to have an aerodynamic advantage, as happened so often in the past? Remember the GM teams switching from Chevys to Olds to Buick to Pontiac and vice versa when the front end of one was more efficient than another?

Again, no problem. NASCAR has shown that they aren’t a bit reluctant to penalize one brand in an attempt to “equalize” the competition. Witness the restrictions put on Toyota engines in the Nationwide Series in 2008, when it was obvious they had an advantage. And with a body style, you can adjust spoiler height, spoiler angles, front air dams, etc.

A possible “downside” would be the inspection teams would have to have a set of templates for each type of car again. So what? If they’ve got enough inspectors to put one in each pit, they’ve got enough to set up multiple inspection lines.

Was that the intent of the CoT in the first place? Make it easier for NASCAR to police? Let’s get our priorities in order. Maybe a good place to start with this approach would be with the Mustang, Challenger and whatever Chevrolet and Toyota decide to use in the Nationwide Series next year.

In the meantime, can we eliminate plate racing? Sure. Take a suggestion Robert Yates made a few years ago. Cut the cubic inch displacement. 305? 250? I don’t know, but somebody has to know. They can cope with one engine outperforming another the same way they did with the Toyota Nationwide powerplant last year.

There’s also always the option to add weight. I know a short track that steps back in the day with an entry class by adding a few pounds when you win two features in a row. Win a third, and you add more.

Would these proposed remedies be costly for the teams? Absolutely – but so is any other step NASCAR’s likely to take. Face facts. Racers are their own worst enemies, and they’ll spend every dollar they can get their hands on to go faster.

Here’s another fact: the teams with the most resources are going to use every bit of those resources to stay ahead, regardless of the rules.

That’s just my opinion – let’s go back a few years. Wasn’t the racing more fun in those days?

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