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Is NASCAR Getting Closer to Providing Their Own Spec Car to Teams?

By admin | April 24, 2013

By Richard Allen

As has been well documented, Matt Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing team were hammeredby NASCAR for a violation involving their engine following a victory last Sunday at the Kansas Speedway. Because a connecting rod within that power plant proved lighter than is allowed, heavy penalties including fines, point reductions and the suspension of crew chief Jason Ratcliff were levied against the team.

Before going any further, it must be pointed out that there had to be a penalty issued because there was a violation. The severity of the penalty could be debated but the need for it is not a question.

What is questionable is the excessive number of rules currently enforced by NASCAR in the Sprint Cup division. As I have opined many times here on this website, too many of the race car’s parts and pieces are dictated, and handed out, by the sanctioning body. Teams have fewer and fewer options when setting their cars up and are being punished for even the slightest variations from the not always so clearly defined rules.

Kenseth’s team became the latest in a string to have points and money taken away for a seemingly minor infraction. This coming on the heels of Penske Racing being hit hard for unapproved parts discovered on their cars prior to the Sprint Cup event in Texas.

My fear is that there will come a time in which NASCAR will use these rule violations as an excuse to essentially create a kit car. Truth is, they’re not terribly far from that now as the new Gen-6 does indeed come as somewhat of an assemble by the numbers car.

If NASCAR were to send all the pieces and parts to teams to simply assemble and load on the truck, the argument could be made that attempts to cheat, or work in the gray area, would be all but eliminated. Parts such as shocks, springs and tires are handed to teams at the track now. Other aspects of the car’s setup such as camber angles, spoiler angles and gear ratios are dictated to crews and closely monitored by officials.

Many of the mandates are passed down in the name of cost savings. But the reality is, mega-teams support tightening of the rules because it actually takes more money to find the most minute of advantages. The big teams have engineering staffs to find those advantages.

There is very little room for creativity. And there is little chance of a smaller team with a good idea to beat the power house organizations.

As it stands right now with the current rules structure, there will never be another set of virtual unknowns like Bill Elliott and his brothers to emerge and take on the ‘big boys’. There will never be another self-made loner like Alan Kulwicki to win a championship by outsmarting the top teams. Current rules won’t allow for either of those scenarios to be repeated.

I hope we never see a day in which NASCAR becomes another version of IROC. That series went under for a reason. Unfortunately, it seems as if the leaders of the sport are taking it in that direction under the guise of making it fair for everyone and controlling the cost of racing.

If it does ever get to that point, this blog may be renamed BaseballWithRich.




Topics: Articles |

23 Responses to “Is NASCAR Getting Closer to Providing Their Own Spec Car to Teams?”

  1. Offkilter Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Kenseth’s penalty may seem harsh if the connecting rod was lighter by poor engine building. and in that case im suprised that trd has motors that are still running all race. My question would be did the trd guys balance the crank to offset it? If that was the case, then the penalty was fully deserved. A few grams seem miniscule, but the lesser the weight in the rotating mass= more hp.
    As far as arguing about needing less or more rules, it makes no difference. It’s nascar’s throne and its not a democracy.

  2. Russ Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    While everything you say is true, I would ask why not? If the goal is, as some claim, to return to “stock cars”, why not?
    The only thing I would change in the premise is this. Nascar could build the cars which would then be doled out to the teams. Is this far different from what is being done by the manufacturers today?
    In fact Rich I would argue that it is inevitable.

  3. zhills fan Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 4:22 am

    I been saying that for a long time, it already is like IROC. Why do you think the crowds have left? Believe me NASCAR is on it’s last leg. A new sanctioning body for STOCK cars is only a short distance from being reality I believe.

  4. midasmicah Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 7:53 am

    The sc in nascar needs to be omitted because there are no stock cars anymore. To me, the cars are already spec. Good grief!!!

  5. GinaV24 Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Like Zhills fan, it has become the IROC series. There weren’t that many people in the stands for those races and yet, NASCAR seems to want to follow that model.

    Rome burns, while Brian France fiddles.

  6. Joe W. Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 9:16 am

    I hope it does not come to the Nascar car. Then you leave all manufacturers out. Sure Lee White and TRD say this is an accident but is it really? If it is, it’s a completely unacceptable error. And if not, which is the direction I tend to believe, then there was an advantaged gained as was mentioned by off kilter above. Either way TRD looks bad. And Gibbs chose to deal with them. So he made his bed now he lies in it. That’s what most of the anti Penske stuff I read kept saying about them last week. I’m very partial and admit it. I’m a Ford fan so my judgement is probably clouded but it seems to me that the penalty to Gibbs Racing is fair.

  7. Jesse Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 9:50 am

    TRD has a billion dollar factory to build these engines, who do you think they are fooling, the other teams, I mean all the Hendrick haters to, Roush and Hendrick started long ago building their engines and equipment, now Toyota comes in with a factory, a factory in CA. They knew what they were doing, it’s hard to beleive that Gibbs and MWR didn’t know about this. Just ask Mikey about the fuel issue.

  8. Steve Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 10:41 am

    And don’t forget. Nascar gets a nice check for every part and piece that they hand out.

    This already is a spec series. This Gen 6 car that they overhyped and has proven to be underproducing on track product will not change my mind until it actually does provide better racing. I’m not holding my breathe that’s for sure.

    We’ve been to Texas, Kansas, Las Vegas and Fontana already and we can only consider one of these races as entertaining. So why not just go all the way with it and start the mass exodus a little sooner for everyone.

    The product on the track is horrible, (except for places like Richmond, Bristol, Martinsville) so its becoming apparent that the money to be made by keeping them in this tight box is greater than giving them more room for innovation. What else could it be?

  9. Ken Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 11:25 am

    For everyone who says that NASCAR is so close to being like IROC, just wait for the fallout when the Australian Supercars get here and race at The Circuit Of The Americas” next month. Those are production cars modified for racing, and unless you have been living in a fog and never watched one of their races, you know full well that they put on a good race. Not a show, but a race. Trouble is, Brian France is too brain dead to realize that there is a difference. I would think that, with all his experience at building killer Mustangs, Roush could easily develop a race package for the Fusion. Hopefully, the Supercar race will be a wake-up call to France and Company, especially if the attendance blow’s away what NASCAR has had lately with all the empty seats!

    By the way, everyone touts Toyota for being the only “Made In The U.S.A.” car in NASCAR. Did anyone notice where Fusions are now made? I was looking at some 2013 Fusions the other day! Ford has moved the Fusion production from Mexico to Flat Rock, Michigan. I just wonder why Ford isn’t pushing this?

  10. Joe W. Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Ken, I had read some months ago that Ford was going to build the new Fusion in Michigan. I don’t know why they haven’t been “beating their chest” over it. Maybe they don’t think it’s necessary. But I agree it should be mentioned. Don’t expect the toyota bunch at Fox to mention anything about it.

  11. merlin muffler Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    NASCAR no longer sanctions races they sanction parades…

  12. Bill B Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Good points Rich. I have no idea what the answer is. I agree that the current car and previous COT isn’t too far from being a “kit car”.
    As it is NASCAR walks a razor’s edge between being considered a sport or entertainment (i.e., WWE). While I agree with everything you said if there aren’t strict rules to keep the field level it lessens the “sport” aspect of it. Obviously, NASCAR could ease up on some areas and allow teams a lot of gray area but at the same time there has to be some limits.
    IMO NASCAR has increasingly tipped towards the entertainment side with some of their hoaky procedural rules (wave around, lucky dog, double file restarts, GWC finishes) while conversely tightening up the parameters of the car itself (arguably except for the 48 team as many would say..LOL). One thing is for sure, it is no longer the NASCAR I fell in love with 20 years ago.

  13. nascaroots Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    well lets wait and see how many illegal parts they find when a hendricks car starts dominating.[oh wait my bad they allways aprove their illegal parts]

  14. Tony Geinzer Says:
    April 25th, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I feel that too, I wonder if there should be a reinstatement of a Good Car (Within Reason) and too, I want to see more of a deemphasis of the IndyCar Motor and more of a car.

  15. Russ Says:
    April 26th, 2013 at 5:19 am

    Interesting isn’t it: the tighter they make the rules, the more of a “spec” car it is. The more “grey areas” the more of an advantage it gives to the 3 mega teams that sit at the right hand of the factories, and can absorb all the engineering support.

    So which way do you want it?

  16. Richard Allen Says:
    April 26th, 2013 at 5:30 am

    I disagree that the more gray area the bigger the advantage the mega-teams have. As it says above, the tighter the rules package, the more advantage they have becauae of those engineers.

    Greater room within which to operate, the more possiblity for experimentation and the possibility of hitting on that certain something.

    Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki were able to emerge because of gray areas.

  17. Chris Fiegler Says:
    April 26th, 2013 at 7:30 am

    I wonder what would happen if an Engine is way too big & it doesn’t fit that great in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Car.

  18. Sue Rarick Says:
    April 26th, 2013 at 7:41 am

    In entertainment there is a hard and fast rule. You can be good or you can be bad …But NEVER be boring.

    Nascar has become boring and that is why fans don’t show up anymore. The more they become like IROC the less people will show up.

  19. RacingFan Says:
    April 26th, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    What is missing from NASCAR’s judicial system is common sense. I am glad I live in a country that doesn’t take away my driver’s license for a year for driving 1 MPH over the speed limit.

    It troubled me when Carl Long was given a huge fine and penalty that essentially shut him down. Common sense would tell you that in his situation, he had very little to gain from a couple of extra cubic inches. He would never have taken that risk intentionally.

    Matt’s penalty bothers me less, even though I sometimes cheer for him, because he comes from a well-funded team and will live to race again. However, the idea that NASCAR cannot use common sense, but must follow a rigid enforcement of extreme penalties to send a message bothers me. If only one rod was underweight and another was in excess of the minimum by quite a bit, common sense would tell you that it was not intentional - that connecting rods were intentionally used for an advantage.

    Yes, teams will probably never make that mistake again, but with thousands of parts, damaged cars having to be replaced regularly, and engines refreshed every race, it takes a lot of resources to just triple-check every part for compliance. So much for low-budget teams entering NASCAR or racing competitively.

  20. Roy Says:
    April 26th, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    If Rich’s prophesy come true, that will be the last straw for me. I’m only a hair breath away from switching to football or, better yet, taking an after church nap.

  21. Carl Watson Says:
    April 27th, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    I’ve been making this joke for 15 years, and I’ll make it once more for people’s amusement, but first a little context.

    It seems like it was back in the mid to late 1990’s when NASCAR started pushing really hard with this parity mantra. Every few weeks they would issue a new rule change regarding the spoiler height of one manufacturer, the front splitter of another, the windows, the roof, the side, the engine. Every time a manufacturer would string together a few wins in a row, the other manufacturers would cry foul, and NASCAR would issue yet another edict from up on high to return parity to the gentle land once more. Oh, and have fun cutting up all your bodies to comply with the new rules.

    So it was in this time that I suggested that if NASCAR wants absolute parity, they will have to move beyond NASROC (Nascar+Iroc), and beyond even IROC itself, because as hard as that series tried to identically prepare 12 cars for competition, it often seemed like one car had juuuuust a little more horsepower than the others. Incidentally, I used to love IROC back in the days when they had 2 ovals + 2 road courses, and open wheel participants such as Al Unser Jr who could wheel the stock cars, but they ruined that series and it died for good reason….but I digress.

    If absolute parity is the goal, then just have the competitors run around the track in nothing but their birthday suits and NASCAR issued jock straps and protective cups. The sneakers would have to be sourced from one manufacturer, who would of course also be the official sneaker of NASCAR, to rule out the possibility of one brand or competitor gaining an advantage over another through space age polymers.

    This would give the women something extra to watch, which was a demographic they were desperately trying to bolster at the time, and would add a new depth and dimension to the term “Cup Champion”. It would also eliminate that nagging old debate over whether NASCAR competitors are athletes or not.

    Now I know what you might be thinking dear reader; “But Carl!” you exclaim, “Do you not see the major flaw in this proposal? What role would the manufacturers such as Chevy, Ford, Toyota, and Dodge be in all of this?”.

    To which I would respond, if you’re running a spec body with spec tires and a spec engine (it’s getting close) with darn near spec setups, where IS the manufacturer in all of THAT mess either??

  22. Russ Says:
    April 27th, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Rich, perhaps “grey area” is not the right term. IMHO, it is the so-called tolerances allowed by Nascar that give the bigger teams the advantages.
    There the advantages, particularly in aero, are undoubtedly in the favor of the bigger teams. The mechanical side perhaps not so much. But again you dont need much of an advantage.

  23. Larry Says:
    May 6th, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    I was a HUGE fan of NASCAR in the 1980’s and 1990’s. I watched every single lap of every race on the edge of my seat, I bought tons of merchandise and went to Pocono and Dover races every year.

    Then it all changed. The cookie cutter cars, the cookie cutter 1.5 mile tracks, the cookie cutter interviews with the clean cut corporate robot drivers giving the same politically correct cookie cutter responses.

    It just became so boring to me, I haven’t watched a NASCAR race in over 10 years now. Formula One is the only racing series I still love to watch.