NASCAR May Re-Introduce The Car Of Tomorrow
It appears that those in the garages, grandstands and media who have been waging a war of words against the Car of Tomorrow could be on the verge extracting a conditional surrender from NASCAR.
Ramsey Poston, managing director of corporate communications for NASCAR, said Monday that rear-deck wings could be removed from Sprint cars early this coming season, though not by the start of the season.
Poston said that should NASCAR decide to replace the wings with vertical spoilers, it will not mean that the controversial COT has been killed. He suggested that a better way to view such a move would be a “re-introduction” of the new car as other key elements of it would remain in place.
“The fact is is that we have had some great racing in the last few years with this (COT), including the wing,” Poston said. “But it’s no secret that drivers and fans don’t all like the wing; just don’t like the way it looks. They don’t feel that it has the look of what they expect a race car to be.
“OK. If we can go back to the spoiler and have no loss of competition, or if we see improved competition the decision is even easier, then we’ll probably head down that road. So, we’ve got some work to do.”
The initial stages of that work are already under way.
NASCAR is in the process of meeting face-to-face with every driver and every owner in the Sprint Cup series. Team and driver views on a variety of issues are being discussed in those meetings, which have included such officials as NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France and president Mike Helton.
The COT is a major issue in those talks.
“They’ve only gotten halfway through the meetings, but the drivers have come up with a lot of ideas and thoughts,” Poston said. “We’re going to take them under serious consideration to see what we can apply as it relates to the car. The meetings so far, have been extremely positive.”
The COT has served as a lightning rod for criticism since it debuted at Bristol Motor Speedway in March of 2007.
There were three major reasons for the introduction of the cars, which are bigger, boxier and incorporate the rear wing and the front splitters: to improve safety, to improve competition and to lessen the cost of racing for teams.
The debate has raged ever since Bristol ’07 on the effectiveness of the latter two elements.
If the COT is re-introduced, safety will remain a major concern. The hope is that improved competition will accompany that.
Poston said if the decision is made to go ahead with wing removal, wind-tunnel and on-track testing will have to be conducted. That would mean that open tests would be scheduled at tracks before the re-introduced cars will actually race.
The wing will be looked at first, Poston said. The splitters will be addressed after that.
Poston said that will not happen before this year’s Daytona 500 in February. But, he said, some “exciting changes” will be in place for the 2010 500.
Poston said that a desire on NASCAR’s part to allow drivers more room to display their craft, could result in allowing more bump drafting and perhaps doing away with the yellow no-passing lines at the bottom of restrictor plate tracks.
“We’ll take a look at all that stuff,” Poston said, “though we’re not there yet.”
The key to all potential changes will be their affect on the quality of racing.
“All this depends on competition,” Poston said. “Competition comes first. We can’t have any loss of competition.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked what he thought the effect of the removal of the rear wings would be on competition.
“I don’t really know. I think it’s more important that it seems to be what the fans want,” Earnhardt said Saturday in Nashville. “The fans want to get rid of the wing, get the old spoiler back. I don’t really know what that will do to the racing. I don’t think it will change it a whole lot myself. I don’t know what that wing’s really doing back there, what the spoiler would be like on this car. We’ve never really tested it so…It could punch a little smaller hole in the air than the wing does and give us a little opportunity to get a little more grip on the front end, but it might do the opposite. You never know.”
Driver Elliott Sadler said, “I would be happy to see that (replacing the wing with a spoiler) as a driver. It will give us more vision, especially on restrictor plate tracks and things like that. So I think it will help as far as the racing is concerned. As far as the look of the car, I think it will bring some identity back to the manufacturers, identity back to NASCAR racing. It looks more like a NASCAR if it has a spoiler on it. So when I heard the news that might be happening, I was very happy about that.”
Reaction to removing yellow lines at Daytona was mixed.
“I’m comfortable if they take the yellow line rule,” driver/owner Tony Stewart said. “We understood why they brought it into the series. The sport has evolved obviously since they put that rule in effect. I think the drivers would be comfortable with it. We all know what it feels like when you get in the grass with tires with no grooves in them. It’s not very fun. It’s always been a self-policing deal. Even with the yellow line deal, we would occasionally get in the grass.”
One driver uncomfortable with removal of the yellow line is Clint Bowyer.
“It’s a mistake,” Bowyer said. “The yellow line…at the end of the straightaway, there’s 10 foot of runoff over there between the yellow line and the grass, say. You get down there and you don’t get back up before the bank starts again, you’re just gonna launch up there. You’ll turn right, wipe everybody out.
“At least the yellow line keeps everybody on the bank as you get into the transition of the corner. I think it’s important. It’s a good rule.”
Poston said that NASCAR hopes to make an announcement on changes during the annual media tour in Charlotte later this month.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at email@example.com Comments