Eight Issues NASCAR Needs to Address in 2010

Because NASCAR likes nothing better than unsolicited suggestions, right?

If I could change just one thing about NASCAR during the off season, it would be banning people from calling into Sirius radio talk shows and suggesting versions of The Chase that rival the BCS and string theory for complexity.  If you want to know what NASCAR might ever consider changing, check out the patent NASCAR holds on The Chase (patent number 7,207,568 entitled “Method of Conducting a Racing Series”).

I’m especially tired of whining about The Chase format when there are much more significant things to be addressed.  Let’s talk about the state of motorsports journalism, for example.  A number of excellent newspaper sports writers have been laid off in the last two years.  Newspapers can’t afford to have dedicated motorsports coverage, you say?  Apparently neither can NASCAR Scene, which laid off a significant fraction of their writing and editorial staff just today.  My sympathies are with the folks who lost their jobs today.  Some have been with the magazine literally their entire careers and some very recently moved from good situations to take what they thought was the ‘job of a lifetime’.  I guess NASCAR fans are going to have to start getting the majority of their news from the NASCAR Citizen Journalists Media Corps.

All aspects of racing are facing the prospect of change, including the concept of racing itself.  At the World Motorsport Symposium in England last November, people from all varieties of racing talked with great concern about the economic situation and how racing fits into the 21st Century.  People repeatedly mentioned one phrase:  ‘the need for racing to be relevant‘.

Old-time fans can scoff that racing ought to be loud and smelly and it’s just a bunch of Prius-driving tree huggers that are causing all the problems, but the fact of the matter is that the world is changing.  Race tracks in Europe are facing closure due to noise issues and emissions issues.  Either racing changes or natural selection does the same number on racing it did on the dodo bird.

Between highly customizable entertainment coming at us from all directions, the glaccially slow economic recovery, people’s microsecond-long attention spans, animated gophers, and the fact that we must deal with increasing global tempertures, racing is a very obvious (although not justifiable) target.  Racing series need to think about long-term planning.  Not just what they’ll do next year, but what they’ll do in the next five years.  Racing has an unfortunate history of being reactive.  It’s time to get proactive.  Now.

I normally struggle with my own New Year’s resolutions, so I thought maybe this year I’d just make resolutions for other people and see if they do any better.  My suggestions, of course, focus on science.  I do have a suggestion for changing The Chase, but it requires non-linear differential equations,  non-dairy coffee creamer and quantum field theory, so I’m keeping it to myself.  I’ve tried to order my suggestions, but take each of the heading numbers with about a plus or minus 2.  Starting from least to most important (insert drumroll here):

8.  Take Pit Road speeding penalties out of the race.

7.  Get serious about diversity or stop talking about it.

6.  Get serious about being ‘green’.

5.  Rethink ‘parity’.

4.  Beef up the ‘research and development’ part of the NASCAR Research & Development Center and establish formal mechanisms for involving the teams.

3.  Stop being fuelish.

2.  Give the New Car the tires it deserves

1.  Fix the aero problems with the New Car.

I’ll be blogging about each one of these issues in the coming weeks.

Incidentally, I’m going to be double posting for a few weeks while I consolidate the buildingspeed.org and stockcarscience.com websites.  Believe it or not, some of my sports car racing friends took umbrage at being talked aboout on a ‘stock car’ site!  Plus, keeping up with the two different sites was stretching me just a little too thin, since I’m now also blogging about everything from Christmas tree lights to climate change at Cocktail Party Physics.


  1. Your intelligent insight is one of the few NASCAR blessings. Thank you for all of your efforts!
    Future expressions will be anxiously awaited, and it is sincerely hoped the “Powers that Be” pay attention to and act on your worthy suggestions.
    It is sad to observe the NASCAR enterprise speed toward a disastrous ending, as old habits and ways refuse to morph into modern
    2010 will be a “make or break year.”

  2. Are you serious about the nonlinear differential equations or just throwing tech-speak out there?

    Second, I agree with two (maybe three) issues. Pit road speeding penalties should be there, but don’t make ’em a lap penalty, make them a 5-spot penalty for the first offense, 10 for the next, then lap thereafter. Aero problems are key and shold also be fixed. I look forward to your detailed blogs on each point.

  3. I’m kidding about the nonlinear differential equations. I was listening to someone on Moody’s show explaining how the Chase should be changed and they got so confused by their own scheme that they couldn’t figure it out. My goodness.
    But I am totally serious abouot the non dairy coffee creamer. You wouldn’t believe the trouble you can get into with that.

  4. “Take Pit Road speeding penalties out of the race.”

    Are you nuts? Pit Road speeding penalties are there to keep drivers from coming down pit road at 100 mph or so and creating a hazard for the crew members and officials! This rule came into place about 20 years ago when a crew member was killed when a car was hit and caused it to crash into a car stopped in the pit stall being serviced. Apparently people have forgotten how well this rule has worked over the last 20 years and people get mad when someone like Montoya gets a win taken away because of it.

  5. Here are my comments on this issue.
    I agree with the Pit Road Violations to stop. This change will happen when fuel injection is added to this sport.

    The diversity issue I totally agree with you on that matter. You have some great minority talent that is currently driving(and also with Danica coming along) that can be used to add interest into the “Diversity” scene. Diversity is not just about putting talent into cars. Nascar needs to remember that it is the fans $ that move this sport. This sport is changing and Nascar needs to change with the times.

  6. Andrew, if they give those position penalties, how would it be enforced on the track? I think the pit road speeding penalties are just fine. Without the pit road speed limit we would have more dead crew members, and the system they have now would be the best way to police and penalize. You cant come over the radio and ask a driver to fall back 10 spots while they are racing on track. That would cause issues on the track and cause issues with other drivers who may also get caught up behind the driver trying to fall back those positions. With a few more issues that come to mind while thinking about this. I can not really think of another penalty system that could be developed. I look forward to seeing what is said on the penalties in the later blog.

  7. Motorsports needs a new Carl Fisher, that fellow who built the track at Indy. A hundred years ago Fisher was very successful with his Prest-o-Lite business (they made acetylene lamps for cars before electric headlights) but severly critical of the quality of American cars. A favorite Fisher quip was that European cars could go faster uphill than American cars could go downhill, and the European ones didn’t fall apart in doing so. A friend of Fisher’s got tired of the constant complaint, and finally said, “either do something about it, or shut up.” Fisher did, he built the Indy track so American car companies would have place to test; there were more than two dozen car manufacturing companies in Indianapolis at the time. Racing became the proving ground and test venue for car builders.
    The problem of making a car that can go faster than a bicycle, and be more reliable than a horse has been solved. Now the issue is keeping the race cars out of the grandstand.
    We need a new Carl Fisher challenge for motorsports; the new challenge is for racing to again be a proving ground and test venue for car builders but in an age of increasing energy costs–without cutting back on safety, for both the drivers and spectators.
    A new version of a Can-Am style series: “run what ya brung,” if it has 4 wheels and can complete practice, qualifying and the race distance on 5 gallons of fuel (plus unlimited renewable energy), we’ll put a number on your car and you can race it.
    It solves all 8 of your issues for NASCAR, as well as Indy car, and F1 thrown into the bargain.
    Unfortunately all of this thoughtful discourse by you and your readers will go onto the NASCAR R&D site of: itain’tgonnahappen.com.

  8. I stopped reading after you said it is fact that the earth is warming. After that your opinions hold no sway, and show you follow the loudest of the crowd.

  9. I agree with the parity issue! It is high time Nascar even it up between the brands of cars!

    In Nascar Chevy or Gm are the Globetrotters verus Dodge, Toyota, Ford the Washington Generals game has gone on to long!

    Their are millions of ‘Car Guy’or Gal” fans who pull for the make of car, not the driver!They have left Nascar for other hobbys such a Barrett Jackson, SEMA etc! They use to be the core base of Nascar!

    The compeition between the brand of car adds to Nascar and they should promote it!

    Remember IROC was a one brand show and see how far it got!!!This should be all the feasibility study Nascar Needs!

  10. Don’t worry, ya’ll, pit road speeding can be eliminated with a chip. They do it in F1.

    And I gotta here Bad Wolf’s science to refute humans impact on our climate. Speak up, Bad Wolf!

  11. This just in… A new e-mail has been hacked and it says to “hide the decline” of race track attendance and destroy all the original data and replace it with the “value added” data.

    I guess the climate change people noticed that they can no longer call it “global warming” because since 1998 the globe is no longer warming. Brian France must be using the same computer program written by the Cap & Trade crowd.

    As for science “yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904]
    valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,-0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor”
    is the programming line they used Mr. RA Eckart. I guess Bad Wolf doesn’t cry wolf.

    Anyway, It seems to me that the COT (and the rules for the Bud Shootout last year) was an effort to coddle Toyota before Gibbs gave TRD an RO-7 to copy. At least that’s what Waltrip said.

    Brian France was in such a hurry to get Toyota in, why should he care what happened to the rest. Since he gets the wads of cash anyway, he has a “fudge factor” all of his own! For those of you who think I am bashing foreign automakers, I consider Dodge (Diamler? Fiat?) foreign by grabbing the Toro by the horns.

    No one makes a NASCAR driver speed on pit road. They either are able to average out the speed zones on pit road, or should have been better at it.

    Oh how I miss the days of the Coffee Machine, a Piedmont Olds, and the Underbird!

  12. I just finished the article about areo dynamics and all the forces that come into play in cornering. All the science can be guided by common sense. If there is a force that works to hold the car on the ground by going forward, those same forces will generate the opposite when going backwards. Its not the car bodies that has made the COT safer for the drivers, its everything underneath. I applaud NASCAR for doing what they have done with the chassis to make it safer for the drivers. Now they need to do some work on the bodies to bring back good old days of racing. Take away the areo packages and the spoilers and put the racing back in the hands of the drivers. If they cant drive without the crutches of the body, then find a new job. I know that the cars will be unstable in the corners but isnt that what brakes are for? They could do away with the restrictive plates as well on the engine with the addition of having to brake in the corner of a super speedway. Martin, Edwards, and others have proven that they can walk away from a terrible flip without any life threatening disabilities in this new car.

  13. Glen Coonfield is partially right about aero devices reversing lift when going backwards. Wings will;spoilers won’t. A bigger problem is jamming air under the car when going backwards, i.e. ground effect. Blowout panels in the airdam would help.

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