Monday, January 30, 2006

Biffle Wrong About Push-Drafting

Greg Biffle's comments about push-drafting during the January NASCAR Media Tour further cement his growing reputation as someone who runs his mouth. "Jimmie Johnson better be careful, or somebody will break his neck," Biffle said in a continuing feud he has had with Jimmie Johnson. Biffle blasted Johnson for accidents at Daytona and Talladega in 2005, then played dumb by saying, "You can't point fingers. Jimmie is a great driver, and certainly didn't mean to cause them. Nobody means to cause a wreck." Biffle further played dumb when he said, "I'm not one to point fingers" about an encounter with Johnson at the Daytona 500.

Biffle sells the audience short here. First, he is one to point fingers and has done so throughout his career. Second, drivers DO in fact mean to cause wrecks. There is almost no such thing as causing a wreck by accident anymore, if there ever was such a thing. Wrecks happen because drivers have control of their cars and WANT to cause wrecks. Saying "it's so hard to see out of these cars with the headrests" as Biffle does won't cut it, because drivers have more control over their cars than many people think. As Bobby Allison once put it about Darrell Waltrip, "as he was going in there he was thinking, 'it sure wouldn't hurt to send him on a ride.'"

Biffle's osteinsible concern is push- (or bump) drafting. "Bump-drafting has gotten out of hand, and NASCAR needs to do something about it." Biffle is wrong. Push-drafting, a technique as old as superspeedways, is a very legitimate racing tactic and is often the only way to pass. The wrecks blamed on push-drafting are the fault of drivers, not the fault of rules or lack of rules. By blaming a tactic instead of the driver(s) involved, Biffle passes the buck and thus is dodging responsibility.

Biffle needs to talk less and race more.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Toyota Comes To NASCAR's Big Leagues

The worst-kept secret in NASCAR was finally broken in late January 2006 with the confirmation that Toyota will field entries in NASCAR's Winston (aka Nextel) Cup and Busch Series racing divisions. "It's going to be an important point in our history," said NASCAR's Brian France, who further noted that Toyota will come in to win races immediately (as though anyone ever expected otherwise) and will "market the sport; you'll see commercials and promotions."

But how much more promotion does the sport really need? If anything, the sport needs LESS promotion and more of an effort at improving the product it fields. Commercials and promotion isn't high on NASCAR's necessities list.

Toyota has long scared other NASCAR manufacturers because of its enormous edge in resources - "Toyota has plenty of cash and American rivals Ford and GM don't," as one motorsports scribe puts it.

The most outspoken about the issue so far has been Jack Roush - "We have to keep American manufacturers involved; we can't make it a Japanese-owned manufacturers series.....We have to.....not let Toyota have things that will obsolete everything else. If NASCAR has a way to stop that, that's wonderful. But if NASCAR manages to get in front of Toyota and enforce it, they'll be the first sanctioning body that ever did that." Roush further adds that Ford, GM, and Dodge may cut back their NASCAR efforts or quit altogether, even though "racing is not a luxury."

Toyota first entered the Craftsman Truck Series in 2004, and in 2005 it won some 40% of the Truck Series' races. While Toyota has been stepping up, the other brands have not - Dodge has cut back to basically Bobby Hamilton's outfit while Ford and Chevy programs have not grown at all since Toyota entered. It is in keeping with Toyota's reputation for pricing other brands out of contention. It seems to make nonsense of Brian France's blithe assertion that Toyota "has learned out culture and how we do business. They know they have to play on a level playing field, and they're very comfortable with that."

Even less sanguine than Roush is fellow Ford man Doug Yates, front man for Roush's engine alliance with Robert Yates - "(Toyota) can put the series out of business like they've done in the past (in other forms of racing).....they spend to buy all the best players, then how is NASCAR going to control the racing?"

It is somewhat reminiscent of when NASCAR allowed Hoosier Race Tire to field tires in Winston Cup in 1988 amid the attempted takeover of Goodyear by the anti-racing businessman Sir James Goldsmith - NASCAR wanted to cover itself in case Goodyear quit. But Toyota is no small company, it is the company that ruined a lot of racing around the world.


Amid Toyota's announcements, opposition to NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow continues to harden. The tone of comments from Ray Evernham, Felix Sabates, and Jack Roush strongly suggests it was an unaccounced boycott by raceteams to NASCAR's Daytona test of the COT, and one has to wonder whether it will get worse - and leaves one wondering if the COT will, despite NASCAR announcements, ever see a competitive lap in anger.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Just Shut Up, Cronkite

Who does Walter Cronkite think he is? He wants the US to quit Iraq "with honor," echoing his infamous demand to withdraw from Vietnam, never mind that he was wrong about Vietnam and is wrong about Iraq. Does he not understand that WINNING is the only viable option here? What does Cronkite have against winning a war?

It is little wonder that the credibility of the Mainstream Media no longer exists. Cronkite helped begin the destruction of the Mainstream Media's credibility in the Vietnam war and he continues it today.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

NASCAR's "Car Of Tomorrow" A Bad Idea

NASCAR has made a lot of noise about its Car Of Tomorrow, a rather serious redeisgn of a racing stock car intended to be fielded by raceteams for 2007, with a tentative debut at Talladega in October 2006. The Car Of Tomorrow - COT for short - sports a noticably bigger roofline, slightly wider overall body, redesigned rear deck area and rear spoiler, and a slightly blunter nose. The biggest change is in the airdam - instead of the flush airdam of years past, the COT airdam has a large gap with a thin splitter on the bottom. According to DEI racing director Steve Hmiel, this is designed to limit what kind of shocks teams run; if teams run shocks with a lot of travel it will grind the lip away and wipe out front downforce, thus teams are limited to shock packages that don't bottom out the nose of the car.

However, NASCAR has not been able to sell the idea to raceteams or to Detroit, and the rumor has picked up steam that the entire project may wither away before it ever sees a competitive lap.

The reasons why the project may never see a competitive lap in anger despite NASCAR spin that the project is still on are several - to convert their fleets to COTs raceteams would have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars building new cars, as present-day cars cannot be converted to COT specs. They'd also need new transporters, as the bigger rooflines make present day haulers too small.

Then there are performance issues with the design. As Speedway Illustrated noted in its February 2006 issue, when tested in traffic at Atlanta in late 2005 the COTs ran well by themselves but were junk in traffic. Noted Doug Gore, quoting from one of the project leaders involved, "The car performed better than expected on the track, but only in clean air. In traffic it performed worse than (raceteams') current models..." - so much so that according to the Winston-Salem Journal's online racing page at the time, teams had to use rear spoilers nearly seven inches in height to get the cars to run stably.

NASCAR, though, continues to test the idea - a day after the first round of NASCAR preseason testing at Daytona, Brett Bodine, a former driver with one Winston Cup win and five BGN wins to his credit in a two-decade career, tested a NASCAR-built COT prototype and experimented with a bizarre new angle - a rear wing instead of the spoiler blade. NASCAR said it hoped that other teams that tested at Daytona in mid-January would bring their COT prototypes with them for a scheduled test. However, only Kyle Petty participated.

Based on Indycar wings and also the wings used on some classes of sports-car racing, it is doubtful that the rear wing will improve handling in traffic, as Indycars in particular had proven less than raceable on ovals with such wings until air-displacement ailerons were added to the rear wings to make drafting more effective. One wonders what NASCAR could hope to accomplish with a rear wing.

The more the Car Of Tomorrow is run, the less impressive it becomes.