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NASCAR Testing: Reports of High Speeds Not Necessarily A Good Thing

By admin | December 12, 2012

By Richard Allen

The first NASCAR Sprint Cup test with the “new” version of the Car of Tomorrow has ended at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and reports out of the track indicate that speeds are faster than ever before. While that may sound like great news, considering that race cars are supposed to go fast, it may not actually be such a good thing.

Last year, NASCAR announced that it would change up the car it had first introduced in 2007 at the Bristol Motor Speedway. The car, which offered no real brand indentity beyond that of stickers to resemble headlights and tail lights, has remained relatively unchanged over the course of its five year existence. Essentially, teams have been racing against one another with the same car during that time.

Now, the CoT, or Gen 6 car, has been reshaped to resemble cars sold by the manufacturers. The fenders, grill and other cosmetic features have been manipulated to provide for these differences.

The Gen 6 car to be driven this season by Aric Almirola for Richard Petty Racing

Please do not be fooled by the changes in the outter body. While that move will create a more stylized machine that the auto companies will no doubt like better, the inner workings of the car have seen little change. The chassis and mechanics of the racer will remain unaffected.

So when reports came out of the track on Wednesday morning that record speeds were being turned in, it indicated that the racing in 2013 will very much resemble that of 2012. And as memory serves, much of that proved to be little more than a high speed parade ending either with a contrived caution or a fuel mileage coast.

Reporter Dustin Long(@DustinLong) tweeted testing speeds from the practice after the conclusion of the Wednesday morning session. Kasey Kahne was the fastest among the fifteen drivers to post a time with an unofficial track record of 193.771mph. Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick followed close behind.

Jeff Gluck(@Jeff_Gluck) added via Twitter, “Kasey Kahne had what would have been a track record lap today, and he said he knew right away it was the fastest he’d ever gone around CMS.”

Had that tweet instead read that rather than a track record, Kahne’s top speed had been slower than in years past and the car was more difficult to drive, there might have been hope for better racing in 2013.

Further, Gluck reported that driver Denny Hamlin said of the 2013 season, “In my eyes, there will be no less than six or seven track records broken.” Hamlin attributed improved grip of the car due to the aerodynamic alterations as the reason for his projection.

As anyone who has read this blog very often may already know, this writer believes the cars are already going too fast to allow for good racing. The CoT has proven to be far too dependant on the air and as a result has lent itself to parade racing as cars can’t close on each other due to the “wall of air” that hinders the progress of the trailing machine.

Cars go fast because of two main factors, horsepower and aerodynamics. To me, when I hear that cars are running faster than ever before immediately after a tweak of the bodies, I fear that aerodynamics have become even more of a factor than they had been.

Instead of the new bodies helping the situation of aero-push, it appears on first glance that they may have actually hurt the situation.

While it’s great that the cars will now have brand indentity, something I have long argued in favor of, there needs to be changes made to improve the racing by allowing for more passing on the track. Those changes would have to come from underneath the sheet metal.

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18 Responses to “NASCAR Testing: Reports of High Speeds Not Necessarily A Good Thing”

  1. Richard Allen Says:
    December 12th, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Do you believe the Gen 6 version of the CoT will improve Sprint Cup racing in 2013?

    Voice your opinion below:

  2. Russ Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 6:11 am

    Absolutely not. As you quite rightly point out the only real change is the aero. And since Nascar has decreed, once again, that all bodywork must have the same numbers whats to separate the cars? Racing doesn’t happen when the cars are at WOT, it happens under braking and acceleration. Higher speeds mean less, not more of that will occur. So I believe that after a few races they will be right back where they were in 2012. And besides, other than the PR folks who cares about the speed anyway?

    While I dont advocate a return to “stock cars”, which is not practical due to safety something needs to be done. Drop the concept of parity and get back closer to the bodywork of the cars we drive every day. Do something to make the cars less drivable.

  3. Richard Allen Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Since the NFL started using the word “parity” ever other sport thinks it needs to use it too. Parity is not always a good thing in racing.

  4. Jarret Z Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 6:57 am

    They did make some changes under the car. No more rear sway bar so the cars won’t be angled going down the straightaway.

  5. Steven Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 8:44 am

    The Car of Sucky Racing is a piece of crap. Putting a new grill on it won’t change that.

    And yeah, I understand it’s safer but they could keep the safety and still fix the damn thing if Nascar actually had any car guys working for them.

  6. Richard Allen Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Several drivers made comments about how the cars are no longer angled so severely on the straights. Still needs allowances in gear ratios, shocks, springs, etc… to improve racing, imo.

    And, what Steven said.

  7. Wayne T. Morgan Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    No it won’t be any better because in effect it’s just different areo (bodywork) but a frame and suspension that NA$CAR mandates and you can’t get around it. People will be fooled by the body until the first race other than a plate race.

  8. Richard Allen Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I’m sure ole DW and Larry Mac will be selling the “new” car, I’m sorry the Gen 6, really hard this spring.

    And to take your thought just a bit further, Wayne. NASCAR has a vested interest in the car they mandate. They are the exclusive supplier of some parts and they charge significant $ to certify each one.

  9. jerseygirl Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I was hoping - even though I didn’t really expect it - that the new car would help the racing but as you say, its simply a new skin, not anything different mechanically.

    I am not looking forward to another season of follow the leader and parades. If that proves to be the case, I will continue to be a “casual” fan in my viewing and attendance.

    We have already decided not to renew our tickets for the All Star race at CMS and I’m lobbying hard to not renew for the October chase race either.

  10. Kevin Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I will reserve final judgement until I see the cars out racing on the track. However, I believe that NASCAR has done some things to make the racing better. ie removing 160 lbs of weight from the chasis & tightening the rules so the teams can’t angle the cars into the corners. Beyond that, it is my understanding that the new aero package for each manufacturer takes much of the aero dependance out of the cars, making mechanical grip much more important. When mechanical grip is more important, setups become more critical and pit road adjustments become more effective. From what I’ve read, these cars don’t need the downforce that CoT needed to turn in the corners, meaning ‘clean air’ isn’t as important. Also, I’ve read there is a lot more drag with the Gen6car, meaning horesepower will make a difference, and the wall of air that caused the CoT to stop dead when it pulled from behind another to pass is no longer a factor as long as the horsepower is there. (Interesting to note; Joey Logano said when NASCAR took some horsepower away during the pack test, the cars slowed down and it became harder to pass).
    Is the Gen6car a silver bullet to fix the racing? No. Is it a step in the right direction? I sure think they’re trying. As with anything, there will be an adjustment period. It will never be perfect, and will always be a work in progress. That’s just the nature of the sport. It has always been that way, and it will always be that way.

  11. Jake Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    I agree with Kevin, whole heartily. Lets not pass judgement when we haven’t even seen much on track action.

    Along with you all being wrong about, it having a new body and that’s it!

    Who said the suspension hasn’t changed and its all cosmetic? Certainly haven’t heard that elsewhere.

    Not to mention a different aero package will almost certainly make the car handle differently.

    Weight distribution has changed and, is certainly a suspension aspect with 160 pounds removed. Retooling of setups to combat the new distribution will be needed.

    The dynamic setups also are supposedly outlawed, that is most certainly a VERY big change and you alluded to it above, “the cars arent angled on the straights.” Kenny Francis, has said the emphasis for next year, is back to springs and shocks.

    Along with eliminating the rear sway bar, and allowing more camber in the rear tires.

    And honestly, at least they attempted to make a change; the results of their labor? We will wait to see. Hopefully the positive talk, is not beating of the drum.

    But if you have decided racing is the worst its been, than only progress can be made.

  12. Chris Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    This article is false in saying that the body has been the only change. There has, in fact, been significant changes to the chassis which is why nobody can simply slap on a new body to one of the old cars. The chassis required adjustments to begin with, because of the new car being 160 pounds lighter. There have been other adjustments to the chassis, the full chassis itself is about 10% smaller and several suspension components have been changed to adjust the handling of the race cars.

    Some things you write are really good, but it seems like most of the time you’re just another blogger looking for a reason to complain

  13. Richard Allen Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    My issue with the CoT, or the Gen 6, has always been the sameness for every team. They are all driving the same car. NASCAR issues shocks and springs, dictates gear ratios and tire pressures and whatever else. Lighter, narrower, straighter, or otherwise, they will all still be driving the same car with the same rock hard tires.

    And yes, I complain a lot…with good reason. And no, I’m not lost in the past. I don’t want NASCAR to be what it was. I want it to be what it can be.

  14. Tony Geinzer Says:
    December 13th, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Parity causes false expectations,Rich.

  15. Sue Rarick Says:
    December 14th, 2012 at 9:50 am

    As long as they keep the quasi splitter and side skirts there will still be aero push when they get to close to a car. It’s not the downforce…It’s the pressure differential between toy air going over the top of the car and the air going under the car that determines aero push

    With more air flowing under the cars the differences are equal so less aero effect

  16. Kevin Says:
    December 14th, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Richard,

    You know that there are differences in how the cars are setup. Thats what allows Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Bush, Denny Hamlin or any other driver to dominate much of the race or parts of the race on any given race day. If teams couldn’t set up their cars differently, then you wouldn’t have teams that struggle with the setup one week & then dominate the next. Are the setups similar? Sure, however the rules are in place to keep one team from developing an unfair advantage over other teams. There is still plenty that teams can do to affect the handling & speed of their car.
    Where you hit it right - in my opinion - is with the hardness of the tires. Given how heavy the CoT was and the handling characteristics of that car, it was super hard on the tires & Goodyear had to develop super hard tires for safety reasons. I’m hoping beyond all else that the G6 car will allow Goodyear to bring a softer tire to the track that will give up over the course of the fuel run & drivers will HAVE to pit for tires instead of all these fuel mileage races. Also, the drivers treatment of the tire over the course of the run will make for movement within the pack.
    Regardless, it will be interesting to see how it turns out. Can’t wait for Speedweeks!

  17. Richard Allen Says:
    December 14th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Kevin,

    There are, of course, differences in car setups. But every time the rule book is tightened, the money it takes to find those differences that will help. That’s why the big teams always come out in favor of rule changes in the name of saving money. They say that knowing people will believe it when the opposite is actually true.

    The way the restrictive set up rules are now, there will never be another Bill Elliott or Alan Kulwicki, just more Jimmie Johnsons and Denny Hamlins, or whoever the mega teams have driving for them.

  18. RFan Says:
    December 14th, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    NASCAR has become dominated by engineers. The results have not been very entertaining.
    In the future, engines and aerodynamics will always be controlled by the engineers. If they determine success, racing will be dull. NASCAR needs to remove success based upon those factors and move it to the suspensions. Make the cars run on springs again. Get the cars off the bump stops. If you watch, for example, the 1980 Southern 500 finish on YouTube, you will see what I mean. The cars actually bounce over bumps.
    If you combine cars that ride on springs, tires that wear out, and changing track conditions, more control of the race will be in the hands of the driver, the crew chief, and their strategy. That will be much more interesting to watch.