By admin | June 5, 2011
By Richard Allen
The famed Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest was once asked how he achieved so much success against the better equipped Union army during the Civil War. Supposedly, the old general replied, “I got there furstest with the mostest.”(And do note Civil War buffs that I used the word supposedly in regard to the disputed quote.)
If Forrest Gump’s alleged namesake were alive today he might consider taking up the career of NASCAR crew chief. It seems that with so little passing on the track and the recent trend for races to be won with fuel mileage gambles, getting out of the pits “furstest with the mostest” gas in the tank is the key to victory.
Granted, there is little NASCAR can do about the timing of the cautions in regard to having them come out at times just inside or outside the fuel windows for the last run of a race. However, there is quite a lot they can do to see to it that there is at least some passing on the track so that a car coming off pit road outside of second place actually has a chance to move to the front by some means other than having the cars in front run out of gas.
This past weekend, both the Sprint Cup race in Kansas and the Nationwide race in Chicago came down to fuel mileage stretch runs. This coming one week after the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte was decided in the same way. Again, this is a product of caution flag timing but the real problem is the lack of passing, especially at the front of the field, during these races.
Try as the television crew might, there is little that can be done to make it seem interesting week after week to watch guys drive around a full second or more slower than normal race pace in an effort to conserve fuel. Once in a while such a finish can be intriguing but without passing for the lead throughout the race, there is hardly enough drama to keep fans excited enough to still be watching at the end.
A few years ago NASCAR began a trend of controlling and dictating more and more pieces and parts on the cars. The end result is what we have today, which is a track full of aero-sensitive, look alike cars that are incapable of passing. Thus, the car out of the pits first with the most fuel on the last pit stop wins.
With NASCAR dictating cars with identical bodies which must race within a very tight box in terms of gear ratios, camber settings, spring and shock tensions, spoiler angles and tire pressures, there is little room for making one car better than the next. As a result, there are a bunch of cars all running in parade formation at the same speed.
Allowing more leeway in the areas mentioned above as well as allowing for some brand identity among the cars would create situations of so-called ‘comers and goers’ which would in turn allow for more passing on the track and less emphasis on regularly scheduled pit stop contests.
Too many races are being decided in the wrong place or in the wrong way. NASCAR has to lighten up on the mandates and put the emphasis back on the track and off pit road and the fuel pump.
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