By admin | January 25, 2012
By Richard Allen
I have never been afraid of voicing total disdain for NASCARâ€™s so called Car of Tomorrow in pieces I have written on this website and that is not likely to change anytime soon. The carâ€™s complete lack of character, identity, and most importantly, itâ€™s lack of â€œraceabilityâ€ have caused many besides myself to criticize the machine.
However, before I go any further I will say the fact that the car is far safer than its predecessor is an obvious plus in the CoTâ€™s favor. After the unfortunate deaths of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin, NASCAR realized the need to improve the safety of the sport and there is little doubt of the CoTâ€™s benefits in that regard. There have been a number of crashes in recent seasons that have eerily reminded those who remember earlier years of similar incidents in which drivers were injured or killed from which todayâ€™s drivers have walked away.
But returning to the subject of the current carâ€™s faults, I and many others have long criticized NASCAR for using a vehicle that causes every manufacturerâ€™s brand to look identical and bear little resemblance to those available for purchase from the showroom. Lack of brand identity in a sport that was built on the rivalries between Ford guys, Chevy guys and Dodge guys seems inexcusable.
So, when it was announced that Sprint Cup cars would take on more of the characteristics of actual street cars in 2013 and that each manufacturerâ€™s car would have itâ€™s own unique characteristics in terms of body design, many critics, including myself, were pleased. However, it must be pointed out that a few tweaks to the fenders or grill area will not fix the issues with this car that have caused it to hinder competition.
The Nationwide Series already employs a version of the CoT which takes on the some of the unique characteristics of each manufacturer’s showroom model.
On Tuesday during the Sprint Media Tour, the Ford Motor Company unveiled the 2013 version of its Fusion make which will be used at the Sprint Cup level in that same year.Â This is a key step into not only bringing back brand identity but also improving what has become a high speed in-line parade with the current aero-sensative CoT. However, taking on brand identity is only one step of several that would allow for more passing, and thus better racing in the sport.
The current Car of Tomorrow has had far too many components dictated to the teams. Inside the car is where the real problems of this machine lie. Over regulation of gear ratios, spring and shock rates, spoiler angles, wheel camber and tire pressures are among the many things that must meet particular standards when the car goes through pre and post-race inspections. With everyone being made to conform on so many critical components, the result is essentially a group of cars that cannot pass because they are all running the same speed throughout an entire fuel run.
When teams are allowed more leeway with their setups there is the chance for better racing because of differing strategies. Some drivers and crews may set their cars up to run better in the short term while others may set up with longer stints in mind. That would create a situation with more comers and goers, and thus more passing and more intriguing strategy.
And before the argument is made that such mandates were put in place to save teams money consider that every time the box within which teams are allowed to operate is tightened, the more money that must be spent to find the slightest advantage within that box. Is it merely coincidence that Hendrick Motorsports, the team with the greatest ability to fund high cost engineering on seemingly small projects, has so completely dominated Sprint Cup racing since the introduction of the CoT?
Also remember that in terms of cost, the CoT has to be certified by NASCAR before it is allowed to race and teams must pay for that certification. So, it might not be so much of a stretch to insinuate that NASCAR could have had some money making designs of their own when implementing the CoT rather than helping to save teams money.
In the end, the movement of the CoT to a design which allows for more brand identity is a good thing. However, it is not a fix for this machine but rather a step in that direction. Even Richard Petty said at the unveiling of the new Ford that the car looks good but it isn’t as if the other manufacturers won’t have similar aerodynamic packages.
The outside of the Car of Tomorrow may be improved, but it’s inside the car where better racing will come from.
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