The Racing Formula
Formula 1 has been suffering from it for years. CART might be in
slightly better shape, but not by much. Now it appears that NASCAR
is also heading down the same road.
The problem is an inability to actually race...yes, you might remember
this...head-to-head, intense competition, rubbing fenders, the ability to
outbrake and outpower and make the pass, row through the gears,
opposite-lock steering, showing the true skills involved,
even necessary, in driving a race car. Today's fastest and most
elite classes in motorsports are fast losing this image. The image
of racing today is fast becoming one of four-wheeled billboards spinning
in a 400 mile circle freight-train formation for four hours at a time.
How do we bring the sport back to the time when fierce competition and
skill was more important than whether or not a team has a sponsor?
We may never go back to the days when the only graphic on cars besides
numbers were rubber streaks and dinged sheet-metal. I think that,
for the most part, all of the sponsorship has been good for the sport,
although its been carried a bit too far. I really don't believe that
the drivers always like to keep having to say things like "That
Chevrolet AC Delco Goodwrench Delco-Remy Plus Burger King Winston
Coca-Cola Monte Carlo sure was a handful today" every time the press
asks them a question. That's ridiculous.
What we can do, however, is look to the amateur and grassroots classes
for clues to bring back the competition and skill factors. Have you
ever watched one of these races? These racers have a competition
that makes the pros look like the amatuers. It seems
to me that one answer is simple. Slow down the cars. And this
doesn't mean with restrictor plates, either. Do it with engine
displacement. Cut the cubic inches and the litres down. Cut
them to a point where the top speeds are down by about 15 or 20 mph,
especially on the high-speed tracks.
This would have several benefits. One, it will slow the cars so
that the speeds will be a little less intmidating. Lets face it, no
one in their right minds really wants to hit one of those concrete walls
on the ovals at 190 mph. Therefore, the racing will be safer, for
both the drivers and the fans. Secondly, slower speeds mean that it
will not be so difficult for one car to race closely next to
another. The aerodynamics of the cars will become a much less
significant factor, and the rule-makers won't have to deal with so much
whining from the drivers of the various makes.
As it is now, the aerodynamics of the cars are so sensitive that one
little ding in the front slows will render a race car instantly
un-competitive. It may even be advisable to purposefully make the
cars less aerodynamic (hey, how about a rule that the car bodies must conform
to factory dimensions!!).
Also, especially in Formula 1, CART and the IRL, bring back the manual
shifter. How much skill does it really take to flick a paddle next
to your steering wheel without even mashing a clutch? At least
NASCAR has this one right.
Another critical factor is the multiple-car teams. Allowing this
all but shuts out the teams which have only one car. This is not
only true due to the advantage the multiple-car teams have in helping one
another during the race, but also in the ability to share the various
ideas and setups between drivers and cars. To me, the advantage of
multiple-car teams is as obvious as would be allowing a boxing match where
one owner has two boxers allowed to gang up on one. Another problem
with this concept is that it reduces the number of available racing
spots. But for these multiple-car teams, some of those Owners having
less big bucks might make the starting grid.
The leaders of Formula 1 and CART are recognizing the need to make
changes.....NASCAR appears to be moving in the opposite direction from
correct progress as of late. Lately, there is even talk of making
every car body the same!! The SCCA has already done this.....its
called a Spec Racer. But, at least in that SCCA class it was done
this way for a reason....a reason which I don't believe is consistent with
the NASCAR heritage.
Did Jarrett Lie to Martin?
Those of you who follow Nascar Winston Cup
racing will know what I'm talking about, especially if you watched the
closing laps of the Daytona 500, and even more if you are a Mark Martin
fan. Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin, and their respective spotters,
discussed a plan to get around the then-leader, Johnny Benson.
Mark Martin was running in 2nd place behind
Benson, and Dale Jarrett was behind Martin. It appeared that the
only way in which Martin could successfully pass Benson was with some
drafting help. Martin and Jarrett agreed, through conversations with
their spotters, that if Martin went for a high pass around Benson on a
certain lap, Dale Jarrett would follow Martin and they would both slip by.
The lap came, Martin went to pass, but
instead of drafting with Martin on the high side, Jarrett went down low
when Benson went up to block Martin, and passed Benson and Martin with
drafting help from Jeff Burton, who had been running in 4th place.
Mark got shuffled way back because now he was out of the racing
line. Jarrett ended up winning the race, with Burton 2nd, and Martin
Did Jarrett Lie to Martin? The
evidence appears to be overwhelming in favor that he did. Martin
said Jarrett lied to him. Jarrett has spoken enough about the
situation so often, over and over again that it appears that he is riddled
with guilt. According to reports, they did agree to make this move
on a certain lap, that is the lap that Martin went for it, and that is the
same lap that Jarrett left Martin high and dry.
Poker playing is one thing, but this was
not a poker game. This is Nascar racing, and Nascar racing has
historically involved a great deal of trust between racers. In most
cases, when a deal is made, the promise is kept. Favors are
An excusable change of heart would have
involved a safety issue, say, if making the pass together would have
placed Martin or Jarrett in and unsafe situation, it would be reasonable
not to make the move. It would also have been excusable had Jarrett
informed Martin that he had changed his mind. At least then Martin
would not have moved from his position, and would have had a good chance
of winning or remaining in second place.
I hope Jarrett did not lie to Martin,
however I cannot help feeling that he set Martin up and planned this
stategy. Whether Jarrett did or not, it appears that most people
believe he did, and I imagine that he has lost much of the critically
important trust he needs from other racers. They may not be so
anxious to make deals with, or help, him in the future.
It will be interesting to see how the next
restrictor-plate race at Talladega plays out.
The Car of the Future
you ever wondered what the car of the future will look like? Well,
here we are, in the year 2000, the new millennium, and maybe you can think
back to 10, 20 or more years ago, and wonder what you thought the car of
the future would be by this time.
I am disappointed. Who would have ever believed that it would have
been a pickup truck or a van? And, besides getting smaller and more
luxurious, they just don't look a hell of a lot different than they did in
1960. Let's face it, there is only so much that one can do with a
box on four wheels.
ever happened to looking outside of the box?
thing's for sure... those vans of the 60's are still around...well,
some of them anyway, but I suspect you won't see many 2000 vans around in
40 years because cars today, more and more, seem to be built to be
disposable. But that sounds like a different topic!
to this van thing, however...and then, consider the amount of traffic we
have on the roads today. Think of all of those hundreds of thousands
of baby boomers all having kids at the same time and then suddenly they
are of driving age. Along with the, the baby boomers are living
longer and will be driving longer...I know I will. So, its getting
to where, at least in an around all of the major cities, that those
who work and commute for a living spend most of their time sitting still
in their automobiles stuck in traffic.
the word "automobile" itself will need to change to keep up with
the times someday. Maybe...."autocamper" will be the
term....come to think of it, maybe the van is the car of the future...in
fact, maybe that original mini-van, the Volkswagen Bus, the camper
version, was the car of the future, well ahead of its
time....because, you could cook dinner in it while you're stuck in
commuter traffic. The wealthier folks may start driving their
Coleman Catalina's to the office.
least a lot of those kids are driving hot Honda Civics....maybe there's
hope after all!