By admin | June 30, 2010
By Richard Allen
This Friday’s Nationwide Series race will be one of the most important events in the history of that series. It will not be important because Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be driving a #3 car. And no, Danica Patrick is not scheduled to be there so that will have nothing to do with the importance of this event.
In the Subway Jalepeno 250 the Nationwide Series’ version of the Car of Tomorrow will make its debut. However, for those lovers of a more traditional looking race car, this machine offers more than its big brother in the Sprint Cup Series.
For the first time since perhaps the 1970s, the cars competing in a NASCAR sanctioned race will actually look like cars that can be purchased in a showroom. Ford Mustangs will actually appear to look like those many fans may have parked in their driveways. The same will be true of the Dodge Challengers, Chevrolet Impalas and Toyota Camrys.
I, for one, have long advocated having cars actually take on brand identity because it is crucial for NASCAR’s long term health. Brand identity gives manufacturers a reason to remain dedicated to the sport and it also gives brand loving fans something to cheer for. Because of that, I hope this race turns out to be a spirited show with plenty of hard racing among each of the brands.
My hope is that a successful race in this event and a number of successful races as the car is used more and more will lead NASCAR to allow similar brand distinction in the Sprint Cup Series.
But more, I hope NASCAR will see that differences are not a bad thing. As it is now, every car competing in the Sprint Cup Series is essentially the same. The only difference among the brands are the stickers designed to look like a grill and headlights. Also, the sanctioning body dictates such items as springs, shocks, camber angles, gear ratios, spoiler angles and tire pressures.
NASCAR has said these dictates save teams money, but there is an old saying in racing that declares every time a new rule is passed it costs money. What really happens is that for every rule, teams are forced to spend more to find small advantages in the remaining areas left open.
That explains why teams such as Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing succeed. They have the money to spend on engineering to seek those tiny advantages.
When rules are loosened it allows for experimentation, which may give the ‘little guy’ a chance to find a combination no one else has yet tried. That can explain how people such as the Elliotts and Alan Kulwicki could compete with much bigger and more heavily financed teams.
Hopefully, this upcoming event will show NASCAR that differences are not a bad thing. So, here’s to hoping this weekend’s Nationwide Series race is a big success.
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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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