By admin | January 25, 2010
By Richard Allen
In recent days the suddenly new and improved, fan-friendly NASCAR has announced that they are replacing the rear wing of the Car of Tomorrow with a blade spoiler, they are doing away with the no bump-drafting rule on restrictor plate tracks and they are going to let the drivers show some personality.
These changes come along with the previously announced plans to fix the start times of races at an earlier and more consistent hour.
While these changes are noteworthy for an organization not known for admitting its mistakes, there is still much to be done.
No doubt, NASCAR has heard the many complaints of drivers, teams, fans and media but as the saying goes, “it’s money that talks the loudest”. Complaints by the previously mentioned stake holders to NASCAR are as old as the sport itself. However, no changes seemed forthcoming until seats turned up empty and sponsors began jumping ship.
That said, at least there is some progress being made. NASCAR has finally realized they have to pay attention to something other than their own press clippings. However, the changes made so far are largely superficial and do not address the real issues in the sport.
NASCAR is not truly changing anything until significant adjustments are made to the Car of Tomorrow. By that I mean the car must show brand identity. No matter what make a car happens to be NASCAR wants them to all look exactly alike because it makes the pre-race and post-race technical inspection easier for not always qualified officials.
By removing brand identity, however, NASCAR removed one of the great fan rooting interests in the sport. Now, Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge vs. Toyota means very little in the grand scheme of things. If NASCAR wants old time fans back they are going to allow the cars to show differences of makes and have them look more like the cars in fan’s garages, no matter how much extra work it causes tech inspectors.
And more, along with allowing brand identity NASCAR is going to have to get out of the parts distribution business. The sanctioning body’s job should be to lay down a basic set of rules and then enforce those rules. Instead, NASCAR has decided to actually hand out many of the parts that go on the car as well as force teams to bring cars to their R & D center for certification. This adds needless expense to the teams and takes away opportunities for ingenuity. The only real purposes of NASCAR’s parts business and R & D center is to line NASCAR’s pockets.
NASCAR’s decision to start handing out so many parts and to dictate to the smallest degree those they do not hand out has to be related to the fact that a few years ago certain teams who the sport needed to run well continually showed up with poor setups and often crashed or finished in the back of the pack as a result. So, NASCAR decided to set the cars up for everyone under the guise of safety, cost reduction and more control of cheating. Shocks, springs, tire pressures, wing angles and camber angles are now decided for teams instead of letting them decide for themselves. The end result was to create a series in which passing is almost nonexistent because everyone is driving the same car.
As I have said before, if NASCAR does not get away from some of the poor decisions they have made over the past few years the sport will wither away to a meaningless sidebar activity in the sporting world’s landscape. And on the NASCAR tombstone will be the letters C.O.T replacing R.I.P.
In my next piece in the ‘Don’t get too excited about NASCAR’s changes’ series will be my take on the Chase for the Championship.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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