Motorsports Column for 4/1/00 |

Motorsports Column for 4/1/00

There’s big news breaking in the racing world in virtually every series.

NASCAR is expected to announce today that a number of new makes will be allowed to compete in the Winston Cup and Busch Grand National series starting in 2002.

In an effort to expand NASCAR’s popularity worldwide, the sanctioning body has approved addition of foreign models to the Winston Cup and Busch lineup. Honda and Toyota from Japan, BMW and Mercedes Benz from Germany, Jaguar from England, and Volvo from Sweden are the models currently on the approved list. More models may be added as required.

All that these manufacturers have to do is to come up with a carbureted V8 powerplant with less than 358 cubic inches of displacement to be eligible. NASCAR assumes that all the manufacturers will willingly do so in order to become part of the NASCAR family.

Fortunately, some of the listed car builders have actual two-door, rear drive models in their lineup, which puts them a step ahead of the Ford Taurus.

This announcement is expected to accelerate NASCAR’s move to a common template, which all manufacturers must adhere to. Otherwise, the sanctioning body would have to add another semi trailer to its fleet just to carry all the templates for the different makes, not to mention the amount of wind tunnel time that would be required to “equalize” all the different body styles.

Once all the new makes have been incorporated into the series, expect to see more NASCAR races overseas, as the season expands from 39 weeks to 52.

There are big changes in the offing for drag racing as well. In an effort to control top speeds, the NHRA has mandated new rules for 2001. The pro classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock) will be required to run grooved tires, like the ones that have been used in Formula One for the past several years.

Some elements within the NHRA hierarchy wanted to go to DOT-approved street tires for these classes, but cooler heads prevailed. Fuel rules are also being scrutinized, with a drastic reduction in nitro percentage the primary area of concern.

Again, the “slow them ‘way down” crowd pushed for 87 octane pump gas, but you can expect a less drastic compromise. These changes are expected to not only slow down top speeds, but to reduce the incidents of blown engines.

In American open-wheel racing, the long-awaited merger between CART and IRNLS (formerly IRL) sanctioning bodies appears to be a reality for the 2001 season.

Technical staff are feverishly working on an equivalency formula to equalize the performance of the IRNLS stock-block engines with the sophisticated turbocharged engines used in CART. The breakthrough came last week, when IRNLS magnate Tony George announced to his staff that he was convinced that engine leasing was the right thing to do.

George, who had previously been adamant against the leasing program, said, “What was I thinking?”

There are even rumors that the Indy 500 will be opened up to alternative power sources for the 2001 race, and team owners have been spotted at the Speedway museum poring over the STP turbine cars.

In the interests of safety, both CART and IRNLS officials also announced the addition of fenders and full roll cages to the cars for 2001. Also under consideration are roll-cage-mounted wings similar to those used by World of Outlaws sprint cars.

Across the pond in Europe, Formula One organizers have been looking very closely at all the rules changes in the American series. After careful consideration, the sanctioning body decided that Formula One rules are already so ridiculous that nothing needs to be done to change them.

Before you flood my voice mailbox with irate messages, kindly take a look at the date at the top of this page. April Fool!

— I will be appearing on Chuck Pearl’s Sports Talk show on CAT-10 for the next couple of weekends, talking about racing. The show airs at 9 pm Fridays, and 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motorsports columnist.