Nascar Weekly – 12/15/07

Nascar Weekly
by Virginia Vroom of

With all of the new technology that is being put into NASCAR these days,
it seems like we’re entering the twilight zone…or maybe that’s just me.

I try not to show bias here, but for me, it’s hard to grasp the concept
that NASCAR is moving closer and closer towards becoming an F1 racing
league. Few people that I have talked to deny the role that technology
is starting to play in shaping the new age of NASCAR.

The biggest change that we are going to see in the 2008 season is that
of the full-time schedule for the Cars of Tomorrow. The COTs shared a
schedule with the ‘old’ cars in the 2007 schedule, but as the kinks were
worked out, NASCAR officials made the call to move only to COTs for
2008, leaving no room for confusion as to what cars would be run on what
tracks and what rules apply to which cars.

This should be a good thing, right? We are seeing a bit of consistency
from NASCAR in a season where inconsistency seemed to dominate
everything from calls during the race to the penalties announced every
Tuesday morning. Either way, it’s a great thing that NASCAR is choosing
something and sticking with it. But the question that we have to ask
remains: Is NASCAR making the right decision by proceeding with the COT?

The idea behind this car remains to even the field and allow racers to
race without being held back by problems like low monetary funds and
lack of sponsors. This has been a consistent problem for teams like
Robby Gordon. Without the money and sponsorships to fund their teams,
the old cars were difficult to setup for qualifying and compete with the
corporations like Hendrick and DEI. With the COT, NASCAR thinks that
more teams will be competitive in this respect. There is also the issue
of safety, which is always something imperative to improve on.
Nevertheless, I dare to say that the COTs are not living up to their
hype in regards to making teams more even.

If we look at the technology that is beginning to rule NASCAR, the
testing for the COT is dominated by strict computer generated software
that exceptionally decreases the role that a driver plays in tuning the
car. This being said, a lot of the excitement is taken away from the
drivers. The whole point behind NASCAR and stock car racing used to be
to increase competitiveness by allowing drivers to use their knowledge
and expertise to fix and tune their cars. This is the experience of a
stock car driver, working together as a TEAM to tune their car and make
it better lap by lap.

But with the COTs needs, technology is the best and most accurate way to
tune these cars. There is something called a seven-post rig. For those
unfamiliar, the seven-post rig is a machine that simulates suspension
during races. This is another one of those big purchases that many
teams have not yet made. Even Ganassi racing does not yet have one of
these machines. Everything on the COT can be gaged by computers. Work
through software is undoubtedly more accurate and more efficient than
waiting for drivers to make their best guesses. But is this what we want??

I thought that we already had a league that had a team tune a car using
computers and high tech equipment and then just let the driver get in
and drive. I believe it’s called Formula 1 racing. In my opinion, the
COT is taking NASCAR officials down an unintended path. Although the
idea was to create more competition, the COT is actually deleting a lot
of driver responsibility and, quite frankly, excitement that few want to
see leave the sport. If this is the direction that NASCAR continues to
follow, we will see a complete domination of F1 drivers moving to
NASCAR. In fact, we may just see F1 swallow up the circuit if we do not
make an effort to protect our sport. The big corporations can also
front the money, but that doesn’t mean that they make the right
decisions. Let’s get back to the good old days of RACING, boys! That’s
what NASCAR is about!