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What Could Make Racing on ‘Cookie Cutters’ Better?

By admin | April 23, 2013

By Richard Allen

On Monday evening, I posted a piece in which I pointed out that NASCAR’s Sprint Cup division had had some great racing until a pair of so-called ‘cookie cutter’ tracks came up on the schedule. After single-file racing with virtually no passing for the lead in Texas and Kansas, it appears as though the gains made by the new Gen-6 car and the sport’s personalities have been lost.

So what’s the solution? Or, is there a solution? Could it be that we as fans are doomed to watch a high speed parade racing every time NASCAR visits a 1.5 mile facility?

I don’t think so. It is my belief that there are changes that could be instituted that would improve racing at all tracks, not just the ‘cookie cutters’.

The reduction of 150 pounds in weight on the Gen-6 from its predecessor was definitely a step in the right direction. But more can be done.

First, the cars are far too fast and far too aero-sensitive. When cars reach top-end straightaway speeds of 200mph or more on a 1.5 mile track, the drivers are doing little more than just hanging on to a car they are driving at full throttle all the way around the track. Racing each other is difficult at those speeds.

As Todd Bodine said after he crashed out of last Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, cars need to be made unstable enough that drivers are forced to let off in the turns. One way this can be accomplished is to get the front splitter up off of the track. Close up television shots show that the front splitter on Sprint Cup cars is stuck to the racing surface much like a vacuum cleaner on your living room carpet.

If a little air could get under the car, it would take away some of that stability from every car, including the leader. And causing drivers to lift in the turns also brings more driving ability and less engineering into the equation.

Second, tires need to give up more. As has been the case in most races run over the past couple of seasons or so, tires are so durable that teams opt to not even change them on some pit stops. This is difficult because there is a perfect formula in which tires give up some grip over the course of a run but do not blow out. But, that formula is not easy to find. A great deal more tire testing would be required at many of the current tracks to find just the right compounds.

Another fix for the ‘cookie cutter’ speedways would be to park the paving machines. The racing at Fontana was the best that track has ever produced, and much of the reason for that was the fact that the surface was worn and bumpy. Such conditions cause drivers to search the track for the best way around as cars slide through the turns. Just because the asphalt starts to look a little gray and a couple of dips develop doesn’t mean the entire track needs resurfaced.

And finally, allow the most innovative crews to tinker a little. NASCAR, in my opinion, has far too many rules. The Penske rear ends and Chad Knaus’ C-posts were innovations that ought to be allowed rather than punished. With so many parts and pieces dictated, there are essentially 43 drivers out there driving 43 similar cars. And in turn, teams have spend thousands if not millions to find the slightest edge. That means small teams will never have a chance to catch up with the Hendricks, Gibbs and Roushs of the world.

I believe implementing these changes over a period of time would make for better racing all tracks, including the 1.5-2 mile facilities. The taking away of down force, differing set-ups, tires that give up on worn surfaces would cause there to be ‘comers and goers’ throughout the course of each run and would create lead changes and passing for all positions.

The changes made to the Gen-6 in terms of brand identity, slightly different aerodynamics due to body style changes and lighter weights are steps in the right direction. A few more steps could make for much better racing.


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14 Responses to “What Could Make Racing on ‘Cookie Cutters’ Better?”

  1. Robert Green Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    The track owners wanted a track that has straightaways long enough to generates the kind of high speeds that attract customers to come and watch. Top the high speed racing off with seating that allows the customers to easily see the whole course from one location. Then there’s the all important number of seats that can accomplish that second mandate. Walla! We’ve got 1.5 mile cookie cutters! You’re right, NASCAR must put the racing back in the drivers’ hands and that means take them out of their comfort zone. I, as a fan, am all for the types of changes you suggest but I’ll guarantee the drivers will raise unholy hell concerning substandard tires and rough track surfaces. It’s very simple in my view… If the drivers don’t like it the customers do and consequently the sport benefits. If the drivers like it the customers leave…

  2. Benjamin P. Glaser Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Excellent ideas Rich. This is why I always look forward to your posts.

  3. AJ Bombersports Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Great ideas. The Coke 600 used to be one of my favourite events on the calender, but recent runnings haven’t been so memorable. And it confused me. Cookie cutters like Kansas, Las Vegas et al never really did it for me anyway, but Atlanta, Texas and Charlotte were always good races. Until now. I remember the old Cup cars bouncing around off the corners at Charlotte, sliding a little, going full side by side through the turns. Now there isn’t so much of that.

    Do you also think the lack of tyre degradation means we see more fuel mileage racing? Where guys just stay out on fuel because they know their tyres will not give up? We had some excellent racing at Martinsville because tyres wore down and you had guys taking fresh tyres and storming through the field. Same in the Truck race. And Darlington in years gone by has had a similar affect.

  4. GinaV24 Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Excellent ideas, Rich on changes that would probably help the racing. Wish NASCAR would actually listen but they are deaf to anything but the sound of their own drummer.

    Robert Green - one of the other things that those track owners wanted was to be able to race Indy & F1 style cars at the same tracks as NASCAR. To make multi-purpose tracks, so to speak. Unfortunately smooth and fast may make for good Indy car racing but makes for parades in NASCAR.

  5. LongLiveRockingham Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 8:31 am

    My solution: dozers and dump trucks. Face it, the cookie cutters are boring. No amount of tinkering will make them interesting. There’s a reason why Martinsville, Bristol, Darlington, Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, et al produce better racing.

  6. Robert Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 8:42 am

    I agree with the fewer rules. In fact, I would go so far as to say there only need to be the rules related to safety issues. That, and a tire size rule. After that, it’s have at it! Then you would have some excitement! No exclusions on car brand, year model or anything else. Then the creativity returns and the real mechanics can shine as much as the drivers!

  7. Bill B Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I think the main attraction of making the tracks 1.5 miles or longer (from the owners’ viewpoint) was to attract other racing series, mainly Indy and F1. Although the potential for more seating with a larger track is definitely part of the reason as well.

  8. zhills fan Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 10:22 am

    One thing that would help in my humble opinion is nascar needs to restrict the money that all teams can have. Now the top teams are the only ones that are really competitive. The second and third tier teams have no chance of winning unless most of the top teams have trouble,etc, wreck or loose an engine.

  9. The Mad Man Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Instead of the D-shaped cookie cutter, why not have an actual oval instead? Both Ford & GM have turnkey race cars. Why not race actual stock cars? What a concept for a sanctioning body that has the words “stock car” in its name but doesn’t race stock cars.

  10. GinaV24 Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Robert 8:42 a.m. I think that would be a great idea. Now that would be “drivers (and crew chiefs) have at it.

    Have to laugh - there’s an article by Jeff Hammond of Fox that is on Jayski entitled - if you play in the gray, you’ll pay.

    Once upon a time, ALL the crew chiefs and teams cheated or innovated, however you want to look at it. Personally I enjoy reading all of the stories about those days. They are certainly a lot more interesting than the cookie cutter, spec car, parades that we are subject to these days. And before someone brings it up, yes, I recall seeing tapes of races where cars dominated and won by laps over others.

  11. Tom Nasella Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I don’t seeing anything changing no matter what because (1) There are so many really good teams with equal equipment and (2) POINTS are too important. These guys just can’t afford to race hard lap after lap because a dnf or poor finish hurts too much in the points. Maybe just make every race 100 miles, no points, guy with most wins at the end of the season is the champ……just kidding.

  12. Bill B Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    How about a figure 8. Just like the slot car tracks we had when we were kids (where one part of the track goes underneath the other). Imagine a track about the length of Darlington with that configuration.

  13. Tony Geinzer Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    I feel with the racing part, I would like to see a Formal Halftime Break at the Cup Level Too and to top it off, have a Race between all the Guys and Girls on the Lead Lap come in first as the 1st One of Pit Road is the Leader and too, I am no fan of “Lucky Dog” because I would have liked to see people earn laps back again.

  14. Offkilter Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    I think the cars should be left alone. If they’d shorten the races by about half, there would be tremendous racing and risk taking. Compacting the amount of time it takes to get to the front would force the drivers to mat it and take many of the non-speed strategies away. To make up the difference from a shorter race, nascar could schedule a lower tier event the same day so that grandstand fans still get the bang for their buck.