Changes coming to NASCAR autos
Speculation and informed guessing became reality last week, as NASCAR officially confirmed that Sprint Cup cars will undergo an aerodynamic change at the rear starting next week at Martinsville. The rear wing, to many one of the least attractive aspects of the Car of Tomorrow, will be replaced with a blade-type spoiler as used on the old-style Cup car and current Nationwide car. Twenty-four Cup cars ran in the spoiler test at Talladega last week, and the consensus among veteran crew chiefs was that their setups won’t change much, if at all. However, the new spoiler will probably have much more effect at mile and a half tracks, and the upcoming test at Charlotte will undoubtedly be more indicative of what changes will be required to make the cars handle with the spoiler. NASCAR also tested a slightly larger restrictor plate during the Talladega session, and that appeared to provide a noticeable power increase and improved acceleration. Drivers also said that visibility out of the car to the rear is better with the wing gone.
However, the wing will still grace the rear of the Cup cars at Bristol this weekend. Bristol is one of the most exciting tracks for the Sprint Cup series, with 43 stock cars on a high-banked half mile speedway. Bumping and banging is always part of the Bristol experience, so if you enjoy watching that style of racing you’ll want to be tuned in to the FOX broadcast. One driver who may surprise this weekend is Marcos Ambrose. In just two starts at Bristol he finished tenth last March and third in August with an average driver rating at the track of 108.2. That rating puts him in close company with Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Ryan Newman at Bristol. This season, with help from Michael Waltrip Racing, he has even better machinery under him. So keep an eye on the man from Down Under in this weekend’s Cup race.
NASCAR’s decision to give the Sprint Cup series as many as three tries at a green/white/checker finish is, in my opinion, pretty much a guarantee that a lot of races will be going into overtime this season. Drivers are going to take more chances and make more risky moves in the closing laps, hoping that the breaks will go their way on the next restart. I know the fans want to see races end under green, but I think NASCAR has taken it a step too far.
Last weekend’s Formula 1 season opener at Bahrain has come under fire from some quarters as a boring race, which has been attributed to the new regulations banning refueling. Already some are calling for a rule change to put fueling back into the equation, but the design of the 2010 F1 cars precludes making this change until the 2011 season at the earliest. Ferrari finished one-two, with former two-time champion Fernando Alonso taking the win in his Ferrari debut. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel led early on, but when he changed to the option tire his car faded, allowing the Ferraris to overtake him. Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren took the final podium position. Early indications are that there are four teams that will be contending for the constructor’s championship: Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, and Red Bull. One race does not a season make, but I’m betting that these four will dominate most of the races.
Local up-and-coming racer Mackena Bell runs her first K&N Pro Series East race next Saturday at Greenville Pickens Speedway. The event will be telecast on SpeedTV at 3:00 pm Pacific time on Thursday, April 1. If you’re working then, set your DVR or TiVo to capture the event.
Finally, for you Dale Earnhardt Senior fans, ESPN has scheduled a March 30 release date for a collector’s edition commemorative 100-page bookazine entitled “Dale Earnhardt: The Legend Lives”. It contains photos and stories from Earnhardt’s friends, competitors, and motorsports writers. Go to ESPN.com to order your copy.