By admin | July 3, 2008
By Richard Allen
This past Sundayâ€™s race in Loudon, New Hampshire continued the trend that has been going on for some time in NASCAR. That is, races nowadays are won on pit road.
Kurt Busch won the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 when his team realized that rain was coming quickly and might bring an early end to the event. And sure enough, it did. Busch had not led a single lap prior to his taking the lead under the next to last caution, but he led when it mattered most. The race was won by the Penske South team in the pits or actually by not coming into the pits.
Whether it be with the Car of Tomorrow or the previous car, passing for the lead in NASCAR has become a rarity. Clean air is everything, making it almost impossible to get around the car in front who has that clean air on its nose.
Thus, NASCAR racing is now basically a pit contest, or non pit contest in some cases.
Like Busch in New Hampshire, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the race in Michigan by using pit strategy rather than out running the competition. He stayed out and completed the race on fumes.
It seems that to win a race teams must somehow make the best use of pit road. That can simply mean having the fastest crew so the car can get its tires and fuel quicker than everyone else and back to the track in front. Or, it can mean devising some strategy to allow a driver to complete the distance ahead of the other drivers by either not pitting or doing something different from everyone else on pit road.
Whichever method is employed by the teams, it will be the pits that determine the winners of most races.
By mandating so many of the parts and pieces on every race car NASCAR has caused every car to go about the same speed. That sounds like a good thing on the surface. Logic would say that if cars are going the same speed the competition would be much closer. To an extent that is true.
However, it also means that no one is going fast enough to pass anyone else. With todayâ€™s cars being such marvels of aerodynamics, clean air is very important. So, as one car closes in on another it starts getting â€œdirty airâ€ or turbulent air on its nose and thus begins to handle differently. The result of this is that cars are unable to pass each other.
It is a shame to hear drivers say that the best place to pass on any track is the pits.
Until something is done to make cars less aero dependent NASCAR racing, on certain tracks at least, will remain as it was on Sunday. Meaning, there will be a good deal of follow the leader until the next pit stop. Then, the team to win the race will be the one that has the best strategy or the fastest pit stop at the end.
It used to be that fans would get a drink or take a restroom break during caution periods so they would not miss any of the real action. Now, if fans want to see the action that determines the winner of a race, they have to watch what happens under caution.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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