Monday, October 10, 2011

NASCAR is stupid

First off, congrats to Jimmie Johnson for winning the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas yesterday. Somehow his crew chief extraordinaire Chad Knaus managed to find a way to make Johnson's car faster on four old tires than everyone else's was on new tires.

jimmie johnson wins at kansas

One of the announcers mentioned that either the guys had been holding back or Knaus has found something late in the season, because Johnson's been a stud the last couple of races. Within striking distance of first place in the Chase, it doesn't seem quite as far fetched now to think of a six consecutive title for the Hendrick juggernaut.

Anyway, the point of this post is more about NASCAR fooling around with the rules again.

When NASCAR went to the safer car design, one thing they implimented was a new front splitter/raised rear spoiler combo as is used in the Truck Series. One of the reasons was to increase the pack racing that is so common in that series by mimicing the aero performance of the vehicles.

After a bunch of horrific crashes where it was found that the raised rear spoiler acted as a wing to lift spinning cars off the track, NASCAR went back to a traditional rear spoiler and front air damn configuration.

With the other aero effects on the new cars, what was wrought was a phenomenom never seen in the sport before. At superspeedway tracks like Talladega and Daytona, something the announcers joyfully dubbed the "two car tango" was created -- two cars running bumper-to-bumper were sometimes as much as 10 mph faster than single cars or the multi-car freight trains of years past.

This led to a fan friendly situation where two guys could hook up almost a lap down and run down the leaders. Teams added inter car communications so drivers could make deals with one another during the race. Allegiances were made and broken during a race. You couldn't count anyone out of the race because with the right pusher -- and some guys worked better as pushers than leaders -- anyone could get up front. The only draw back was that the rear car might overheat from the lack of airflow, so a graceful method of swapping positions was born as well.

It was great television.

And of course, NASCAR hated it.

Because there wasn't enough wrecks. Because NASCAR likes wrecks because they make good visual bites for advertising.

So . . .

For Talladega, NASCAR has mandated some rule changes -- they've increased the sizes of the holes in the restrictor plates and changed the pressure value on the radiator pop-offs. Their stated purpose for these changes is to eliminate the two-car effect by increasing horsepower and limiting the time the vehicles can ride behind another without overheating. In essence, they want a return of the large pack racing of the past -- where as many as twenty cars are tightly packed, unable to break away from one another just zooming around the track as an accident waiting to happen.

Add to this Talladega's recent announcement -- they are offering $100k to the driver who takes the lead most often if the total lead changes is over 100. The record is in the eighties and was set by the . . . two-car tango effect so reviled by NASCAR officials.

So putting this all together -- we have NASCAR forcing the cars back into a dangerously tight pack of vehicles travelling at over 200 mph, and we have the track officials hoping to force risk taking and, in their own words, entertaining and exciting driving by throwing what amounts to a couple of sets of tires at the drivers.

It's a recipe for disaster and I hope no one is seriously injured because of this stupidity.

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