By admin | February 22, 2008
Test Time for the CoT
By Richard Allen
It’s time for a test! In my full time profession as a high school teacher those words often send students into a panic. A scramble ensues as unprepared students seek paper, pencil and a classmate who might help provide answers.
The test that will occur this Sunday will not require paper or pencil. Instead, it is the Car of Tomorrow that must provide the answers.
So far, the controversial winged machine has produced mixed results. Last year, the car was used on tracks that measured 1 1/3 miles or less, road courses and a restrictor plate track.
Aerodynamics play a minimal role on short tracks and road courses so the CoT’s impact on competition was difficult to discern. At times, the races in which the new car was used provided some excitement, but at other times the racing proved to be somewhat boring. Perhaps the lack of excitement in those events, particularly late in 2007, was due more to the possibility that drivers were worried about making the Chase for the Championship or securing points within the Chase.
As of Sunday’s Daytona 500 the CoT has been used in two restrictor plate races. Races held at Daytona and Talladega are different animals all together. The horsepower robbing plates serve to artificially manufacture close competition.
So, the success or failure of the Car of Tomorrow will be determined on tracks such as California, Las Vegas and Atlanta, sites of the next three Sprint Cup races. These so called “Cookie Cutter” tracks and others like them account for 14 of the series’ 36 points paying races.
The previously used car had become extremely aero-dependent. The cars travelled very fast, probably too fast for close competition, around the 1½ to 2 mile circuits. Drivers and crew chiefs introduced a new term, aerotight, into the racing vernacular. For the most part, races turned into spread out, high speed contests of follow the leader.
There would be little argument from anyone that the CoT is safer than its predecessor. However, it is closeness of competition that will determine the car’s ultimate grade.
Many fans have initially been turned off by the overall appearance of the CoT and by the sameness of the different brands. Perhaps those issues will be forgotten, or at least less relevant, if Sunday’s race is filled with side by side action. If not, it will be more of the same old same old just with an uglier car.
NASCAR has to be hoping that the tutoring sessions its student has received so far will result in a passing grade. During off season testing and throughout SpeedWeeks there was less complaining by teams and drivers than one year ago. Hopefully, by Sunday evening the CoT will receive a passing grade by those who matter most, the fans.
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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