By admin | July 28, 2009
By Richard Allen
As has been well documented this week, Juan Pablo Montoya lost the Brickyard 400 when he was busted for speeding on pit road. However, the focus of this column is not on the penalty itself but what happened after the penalty was handed down.
Montoya clearly had the best car in the field on Sunday. He started from the outside of the front row and quickly went to the top of the leaderboard. He led a total of 116 laps, which is more laps than he had led over the course of his entire career. However, the pass through penalty he was given dropped him to 12th place on the track.
Despite being the fastest car all day, Montoya was unable to make up any positions. Even after a late race caution bunched the field, he remained mired outside the top-10. Once back in the dreaded ‘dirty air’ Montoya was unable to move forward, even with a car that had been so dominate.
How is it a car that strong all day was unable to pass even the cars at the back of the top-10?
There is one simple answer to that question, and that is the Car of Tomorrow. This aerodynamically flawed car is so dependent on clean air that drivers are unable to make any moves or gain on the car in front of them if the air is the least bit disturbed.
Montoya helped demonstrate just how bad of a race car the CoT is in two ways. In ‘clean air’ he was able to get out to a big lead as his car dirtied the air for those behind. Then, once in the pack, his car stalled once it was affected by ‘dirty air’.
Montoya only gained one spot, up to 11th, before the finish of the race and that came only after a hard fought bumping match with Joey Logano.
During some of the early races staged with the CoT, the outlook seemed promising. However, in that first year the car was used primarily on short track and road courses where aerodynamics do not play such a major role.
Since the car has become the full time vehicle in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the racing has become more like a follow the leader parade than a competitive affair.
Even worse, the Car of Tomorrow is killing the competitive nature of this sport in more ways than one. Not only is the racing bad, but the car offers no real brand distinction. For many the Ford vs. Chevrolet vs. Dodge vs. Toyota rivalry is part of what makes NASCAR interesting. Since each car looks exactly the same except for the stickers placed in the grill and headlight areas, there is no real point to that competitive argument anymore.
NASCAR is wasting away. The television ratings show that. The multitude of empty seats at almost every track shows that. If some things are not changed soon, there will come a day when sports historians will look back on what went wrong with NASCAR and the CoT will be a major part of the answer.
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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