All Kinds of News and None of It Bad
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and of course a cordial “Happy February” goes out to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR related on this unusually warm winter day in the hills of North Georgia.
Ah yes, February has come at last, and that other sport has played its game, bringing surprises to no one, and it’s time to fire the engines in Daytona Beach, the World Center of Racing! Is it just me, or is there a very different feeling in the air from what we’ve had for the past… oh, say 15 years? Could that feeling be one of hope? It’s been so long since I felt hope, I’m not sure if I’d recognize it without help.
Monday morning brought a whole flurry of news from the NASCAR offices. New rules and new cars led the list. The rule getting the most play, and all of it positive that I’ve heard, is that post-race inspections will once again be done at the racetrack, not behind closed doors at the NASCAR R&D center. NASCAR will detain the first and second place finishers and at least one random car for a thorough post-race teardown, though I’m told not as extensive as has been done in recent years. They estimate 90minutes or more to accomplish that, and we will have a winner before the day ends.
That is great. This scribe and many others have opined that is the way it should have been done all along. But there are consequences, and they could be dire. If the winning car should fail post-race inspection, the car and driver will be DQ’d, and I don’t mean Dairy Queen. The failing car will be stripped of the win and all that goes with it and awarded last place for the effort. Am I happy? Well slap me down and call me sassy! You bet your boots I’m happy! The game of playing crew chief has just been raised from penny-ante to a $thousand a card stakes. Let the games begin!
I’ve heard folks speculating that no one will be DQ’d because the price is finally more than teams will be willing to pay. I disagree. There will be teams that will try things. Some might even get away with it but some will be caught. Make no mistake. NASCAR was a long time coming up with what common sense has dictated all along. If the bum was cheating, then throw the bum out! That’s what happens in most Saturday night leagues around the country.
What happens if both the first and second place finishers are found illegal? The penalty is the same. Winner finishes last. Second place finishes next to last… or maybe in this event, they’ll turn that around. Either way, those teams won’t be happy… but they will be believers! If I were NASCAR, I’d be keeping the third and fourth place cars for at least a few races, ‘til we see which way the wind blows.
Cars will be allowed up to two loose lug nuts without disqualification. Sealed engines that see double use, as prescribed by the rules, gets a bit tacky. If engine is illegal on its first run, BOOM, you’re gone. If however, it’s found illegal on its second run, the car won’t be DQ’d because that would set up the need to change the running order of a race weeks or even months before. Instead it will be seen as an L2 penalty, which involves a whole lot of cash and a long vacation for crew chief, car chief or anyone of NASCAR’s choice. Finish will not count toward anything that follows, so I guess in this one instance, the “cucumbered win” is still with us. Anything else found illegal in the inspection gets the team DQ’d and probably PO’d too. Deal with it!
And then… there are burnouts. It’s fairly common knowledge that things sometimes “happen” to a car during a burnout. Wheels explode, fenders are ripped… all manner of damage can be the result of a burnout gone wrong, or right if intentional. For the time being, Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition says, “We’re in show business. Fans like burnouts. It’s a hard decision to make, and I don’t think we’ve actually landed on whether or not we’re going to say they can’t do that. But let’s just say that, at the very least, if there are habitual offenders of that, that’s not going to be OK.” That’s what’s called a “Judgement call” and he’s the guy that gets to judge when all is said and done. Car owners, the ones that get to pay for the damage, might applaud seeing an end to them. Burnouts didn’t happen in the old days. Most drivers had more respect for their car owners than today’s kids seem to have.
In another announcement, we learned the target date for the Gen-7 cars is now 2021. I think most of us realize that the new rules and the anticipated new cars are bringing NASCAR closer to the reality of “Stock Cars”, at least in appearance and engine capabilities. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer (Even making that into an acronym wouldn’t shorten it sufficiently) offered this snippet as part of a longer presentation, but this is the part that matters.
“I think it’s important to note that the reason we headed in this direction with the 2019 rules package was really to line us up for where we wanted to go in the future from a racing standpoint, both on track from a car’s look and feel and then under the hood from an engine perspective. If you look at a lot of the dialogue we’ve had with our existing OEMs, potential OEMs, there’s a lot of interest to do some things differently in terms of making the cars look even more like they do on the street, making sure that we can evolve some of our engine technology as well.”
If that doesn’t make perfect sense to you, then you need a lesson in NASCAR-speak, but I can do even one better. Relating to the article seen Monday on nascar.com, there was a picture… a tease, if you will, that seems to divulge perhaps more than intended. This is purported to be Gen-7 cars, all lined up with only the right front fender of each car showing. Oops! Take a look at this and tell me what you see!
Definitely right from fenders, but look under those front ends. Those are shadows and we’re seeing them because there is ground clearance! If you’ve hung around these pages much, you’ll well know the mantra dealing with the need for ground clearance all the way around the cars so that air can travel under as well as over the car. Five inches is the recommended amount, and the result would be making the words “aero-push” just an unpleasant memory! This single pic isn’t detailed enough to see how much clearance is really there, but it’s enough to make those distinct shadows… and that alone makes this old gal really happy. If there is a splitter of any sort on those cars, it’s not visible. Ever just want to throw your arms in the air and scream, “Eureka!”? That’s what I did when I first came upon this pic.
One more thing before we end our time together this week. I’d like to offer a huge “Thank You” to Jim France, who was kind enough to step in when his nephew left in disgrace. He is the one responsible for many of the changes we are seeing and will continue to see as time passes. Oh, and that feeling I mentioned at the beginning of this dissertation… he is responsible for that as well, and yes, it is hope. That’s something all the race fans have been needing, and we thank you Jim, for taking the helm of the good ship NASCAR and guiding her safely back to harbor.
And on that elated note, I’ll leave you for today, but not before we share a Classic Country Closeout! Since your scribe is in such a good mood, let’s listen to almost an hour of songs by one of the greatest Classic singers, Ernest Tubb! Take it away ET!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!