Tuesday, July 11, 2017

NASCAR Entering New Hampshire

NASCAR enters New Hampshire Motor Speedway following Kentucky's weekend - and it's a bittersweet beginning to Loudon's Cup series with the September weekend going to Las Vegas in 2018.   Some thoughts on NASCAR entering New Hampshire...........

Brad Keselowski came out against the design of the modern Winston Cup car after this crash at Kentucky. "You have to put yourself in bad situations," Keselowski noted.   NASCAR's Steve O'Donnell responded that "Keselowski had influence on this rules package."

Of course by now it's anything but a recent issue, and the back and forth between Keselowski and O'Donnell illustrates the sport-wide myopia (and hypocrisy) that has seemingly forever permeated the raceability of the cars.   O'Donnell noted a redesign of the car is years away, which may be true yet also illustrates how racing keeps putting off actually confronting its problems in a proper way.   The reality is racing seemingly hasn't gotten it - the Winston Cup car should never have been a top-heavy sedan body with low downforce.   Low downforce has never worked.   The Cup car needs to be a long-snout lean raked roofline aerocoupe body with a conventional airdam (a change all but confirmed by O'Donnell in recent media), squared off bumpers to allow push-drafting, a larger rear spoiler made of clear-vu so drivers can see through the lead car's windshield, and now drag ducts as will debut with the Xfinity cars at Indianapolis in a few weeks to blast open air and channel out a drafting effect.   The side skirts and sharkfin have become controversial in recent years as well and would seem to have worn out their welcome as well.

But the issue has always gone beyond just aerodynamics.   The myth is always pushed for more horsepower, yet nowhere has any example come up where adding horsepower increased passing in any way; it would seem the opposite is needed - a major restriction in horsepower (with Xfinity at Indianapolis again about to showcase this come late-July 2017), while the issue of the tire has gone un-analyzed.   It should be painfully clear after some twenty-eight seasons that radial tires simply are not good for racing - too unforgiving to drivers, far too difficult to set up for; as observer Randy Cadenhead has noted, NASCAR nowadays sees seemingly endless redesign of tracks and application of substances (reminiscent of the 1970s-80s era of "bear grease" sealant, which filled in asphalt cracks; drivers long claimed it made the tracks slicker, yet it also seemed to make them more pass-happy) for low-line grip, all in effort to increase passing.

Whether a car redesign is indeed years out - and there's no particular reason to doubt that - one hopes NASCAR does figure out with an eventual redesign that the "old" school of  downforce long lean aerocoupes works better than the top-heavy low-downforce sedan concept.


Darrell Wallace has yet to win outside of the Truck Series - here are his wins there to date

One of the wildest moments of Kentucky was the last-lap crash when Darrell Wallace Jr. in Richard Petty's #43 swerved into Matt Kenseth.   The Winston Cup rookie may have driven his last race for Petty's team with Aric Almirola surprisingly recovered much faster than a lot of people expected.

Bubba, as is his nickname, showed something in Petty's #43, and the rumor has circulated the last month or two that Petty will pull off some kind of merger deal where he will be able to field a #44 again - a big IF, of course, given the still-shaky economics of the sport, especially with Barney Visser after his big win with Truex at Kentucky admitting he may not be able to field the #77 of Erik Jones next year - Jones is slated to replace Matt Kenseth in JGR's #20; Kenseth's 2018 fate is as yet unknown.   Should it happen, Wallace seems likely to pair up with Almirola; it's certainly clear in his four races with Petty that Wallace can race, and even has a nasty streak.


O'Donnell has also stated NASCAR is "aggressively pursuing" at least one other manufacturer - with the rumored return of Dodge high on the presumptive list.   One, though, shouldn't be enough, for motorsports power Honda would seem a natural NASCAR fit along with Dodge; adding two would certainly help with some of the sport's economic problems, though getting control of overspending remains the top priority as far as the sport's economics goes.  

Should two more manufacturers come to NASCAR, they need to make all the teams they back work together, as Pontiacs began doing in 1994, as RCR, DEI, and Andy Petree's teams did in the late 1990s, and as Dodge's Truck teams did 1996-2000 under Lou Patane.   Heavy inter-team cooperation has long proven competitively beneficial. 

And speaking of aggressively pursuing more manufacturers, one recalls the rather prominent Firestone signage in Pocono's Tunnel Turn back in June - a case of passive-aggressive pursuit?

It all leaves the mind engaged as New Hampshire beckons.

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