By admin | October 15, 2008
By Richard Allen
It appears as though NASCAR is determined to kill its so called second series. Teams that compete on the Nationwide Series completed their second test of that division’s Car of Tomorrow this week in Charlotte.
The car was first tested in Richmond earlier in the year. In 2009, the progression of the car will continue. There has been talk of actually racing the car on a limited basis in the latter half of 2009, and it could be that the new machine will begin full time action in February of 2010.
There are good things about the Car of Tomorrow currently being used in the Sprint Cup Series. The car is unquestionably safer than the previous car. Crashes by Jeff Gordon in Las Vegas and Denny Hamlin in Talladega have shown that.
Also, the car has proven to be a challenge for teams and drivers which is not necessarily a bad thing. Winning races and championships should not be so easy that anyone can do it. It should be those with special skills who are rewarded.
And more, as teams and drivers get a better feel for what the car needs to handle well, the competition has seemingly improved a bit.
The problem with adapting the car to the Nationwide Series is financial. With a worsening economy sponsorships are going to be more and more difficult to find. And now, NASCAR is going to mandate a change in the equipment being used in the series which will add enormous expense.
Such team owners as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Rusty Wallace have expressed concerns about making ends meet if the new car is brought on line as planned. Earnhardt went so far as to suggest that it would make more sense for him to take his team up to the Sprint Cup Series rather than remain in the lower series. He argues that sponsors having to put up so much money would rather just go ahead and get the exposure of being in the top division.
If such big name personalities as Earnhardt and Wallace are concerned with being able to find sponsorship and pay the bills then lesser known competitors must really be feeling the pinch.
NASCAR has already taken steps to diminish the importance of the Nationwide Series. By allowing Sprint Cup drivers and teams to race with no limitations of any kind the series has become the equivalent of a “Sprint Cup Light” series.
The original intent of the series was to provide a training ground for up and coming drivers and to provide a place to race for veteran drivers who had never made their way to the higher division. The series used to stand alone as a great racing series with the likes of Sam Ard, Tommy Houston and Newport’s L.D. Ottinger staging exciting events all over the country.
Now, with the massive engineering and technical budgets of Sprint Cup teams such as Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing, the teams of the “common man” struggle to make the field much less compete for wins and championships.
And more, young drivers have no chance to make races, improve their skills and show what they are made of unless they happen to be associated with one of the previously mentioned Cup teams.
Despite the fact that there are advantages to the Car of Tomorrow, particularly in the realm of safety, the institution of a new car will only further reduce the significance of the series. The Nationwide Series as it was originally intended has been dead for years. Now, fans can simply look for “Sprint Cup Light” races to serve as a testing ground with only 25-30 cars competing as they precede the weekend’s main event.
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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