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Simply changing the body style won’t fix the CoT

By admin | January 25, 2012

By Richard Allen


I have never been afraid of voicing total disdain for NASCAR’s so called Car of Tomorrow in pieces I have written on this website and that is not likely to change anytime soon. The car’s complete lack of character, identity, and most importantly, it’s lack of “raceability” 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 CoT’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 CoT’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 today’s drivers have walked away.

But returning to the subject of the current car’s faults, I and many others have long criticized NASCAR for using a vehicle that causes every manufacturer’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 manufacturer’s car would have it’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.  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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8 Responses to “Simply changing the body style won’t fix the CoT”

  1. The Mad Man Says:
    January 25th, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    They need to go back to racing stock cars instead of using purpose-built, generic race vehicles. There isn’t anything stock about them.

    While there is some resemblance between the 2013 Fusion and its racing counterpart, it’s nowhere near the same size or actual shape except maybe in the roofline. The handling issue is something that needs to be addressed in every model of the COT on the track. And maybe if NASCAR would advance into 21st century technology, we could see a return to actual production-based engines, transmissions, suspension, etc. Everything that is currently missing.

    Maybe when Ford rolls out it’s 200 MPH GT 500 in 2014, Ford might want to push racing that in NASCAR without all the politics & bull manure currently involved in submitting a vehcile. After all, it would be a true stock car that could be raced.

  2. Offkilter Says:
    January 25th, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    I hear ya Mad Man… Make teams run production cars. Velcro in some plastic pvc for roll bars and turn em loose. To heck with safety and nascar’s bull.

  3. Russ Says:
    January 25th, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Rich, really good article. And it points out, what in my opinion is the biggest problem in nascar. The idea that every manufacturer is entitled to a car that is the equal, but no more of its competitor.
    First let me say that they can never run “stock cars” again. Safety considerations alone prohibit that. A tube frame chassis of some sort is required. But the manufacturers should be allowed/required to run the bodywork they produce. That would encourage improvement and penalize a less than perfect design.
    Of course the manufacturers will be against that because they, like Nascar, would rather not be better, than take a chance on being worse. (Besides, and don’t tell anybody - that would mean they would have to spend more money to keep up - but dont tell anybody)

  4. Bill B Says:
    January 26th, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I agree with everything you pointed out Rich. The only thing good about the COT is that since it’s been introduced you don’t hear the whining about one manufacturer having an advantage over another. No more announcements that NASCAR will be taking an inch off the spoiler of the Fords or adding an inch to the nose of the Chevy.
    I understand the need for parity with regards to aerodynamic characteristics but those other things you mentioned - gear ratios, camber, springs, shocks, etc. - is where NASCAR went waaaaay overboard in their plan for parity.
    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the generic cars anymore then most fans but I do understand the reasoning behind it. What I think irks me the most about the COT was that when it was introduced NASCAR fed us a bunch of BS about it solving the aero issues and saving the teams money. It has done neither.

  5. Tony Geinzer Says:
    January 26th, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Rich, the criminal fault with the COT is people forget the core of it is safety. But, it doesn’t add anything when we don’t see Mustangs and Camaros like the 1970s Trans Am.

  6. Sue Rarick Says:
    January 26th, 2012 at 9:06 am

    The biggest problem with the CoT has always been it’s aerodynamics. And for all the jabber jawing over aerodynamics it basically comes down to the pressure differential between the air going over the top verses the air going under the car. get rid of the side skirts and splitter and allow some air to get under the cars and you eliminate most of the passing problems. The cornering speeds will drop so braking skills and throttle control come back into play.

    I also agree Nascar needs to allow more set-up options, including spoiler angles. It definitely allows for a lot of strategy options. Do you go for straight way speed or cornering speed? With a 2 inch minimum slammed down front ground clearance do you set your car up for 3 inches of clearance and actually use your suspension and not just the tires to smooth out a rough track and get more traction?

    All sorts of options become available and with more options smaller teams have a better chance of making it into the winners circle.

  7. Steve Says:
    January 26th, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Rich you hit the nail on the head. Nascar used this car as a money maker by forcing teams to buy most of their parts from a company in cahoots with Nascar. They created a spec series and made a pantload of money doing it.

    They are losing fans now though, so we will see how this all unfolds in 2013 and beyond. Like you said, something needs to be done with the product on the track to make this changeover worth a spit.

  8. John McManus Says:
    January 26th, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I thought Goodyear was behind the tire pressure and camber rules. The teams wouldn’t stay within suggested limits, tires blew and everybody was unhappy.

    Does the new Fusion fit the templates orhas Nascar thrown that out to allow this model?

    The Bridgestone ( I think) series is great because it has some of everything. Big engines, small engines, turbos, EFI,RWD, FWD,AWD, front engine, rear engine and about a dozen manufacturers. It’s fun to watch a MINI pass a Rouch Mustang. What makes the series sucessful is people who can write an intelligent rulebook.