What a Touring Car Series Could Teach NASCAR
Genuine stock-car racing exists in America, but only if you're searching for it.
NASCAR's most recent "Car of Tomorrow," a body template designed for safety, lowered the sport's heat even more than when it swapped the distinctive, production-based race car bodies to uniform composite molds and tube frames in the 1980s. That means the National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing has not raced stock cars for the past 20-odd years. That also means there is practically zero "trickle down" innovation, where automakers can test parts in grueling track conditions and refine them for the street. Whereas Formula 1 introduced cutting-edge carbon fiber and LeMans is now testing the limits of diesel engines and experimental hybrids, NASCAR just started to use fuel injection.
Even NASCAR feels a little conflicted. So it has encouraged the automakers and teams to apply more headlamp decals and -- what a concept -- shape the bodies to reflect the production cars. But while Dodge sells rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered cars at the dealership, a Toyota Camry doesn't even come with a stick.
Real stock-car racing, like the Grand-Am GS and ST classes, looks like this:
And this, from the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship:
The British Touring Car Championship and German Touring Car Masters exhibit the same thing: average cars plucked from the showroom floor, bodies intact, and realistic, exciting mirror-to-mirror competition. (About that excitement: As seen above, touring-car drivers pull sabotage moves on each other with incredible frequency. It's the hockey of auto racing.) It also takes no squinting or imagination to see a Vauxhall Insignia go against a BMW 3 Series in Britain, or to watch Kia Fortes battle it out against MINI Coopers in America. In NASCAR, team rivalry boils down to Home Depot versus M&Ms. Even the Swedes do NASCAR better than NASCAR by racing stock Camarosin a special Camaro-only series for the past 24 years.
Perhaps, as with the return of a U.S. Formula 1 race, more Americans will tune in to touring-car series. The FIA World Touring Car Championship will race in America for the first time ever this September, alongside the lesser-known U.S. Touring Car Championship, broadcast only online or on a hard-to-find TV station in California. It would be wonderful if NASCAR could be completely replaced, or at the very least, renamed (how about NAMCAR for modified?).
Is NASCAR really that immune to institutional change? Is it truly deaf and blind to its past? I don't know those answers. Beer and cookouts, however, aren't NASCAR-exclusive. They pair well with every stock-based motorsport, whether the cars are production models or not.
Back before the late Dale Earnhardt left us, he made a comment to NASCAR and it's heirarchy, saying that what they were in the process of doing was turning Winston Cup racing into the IROC Series, (where all the drivers pilot matching cars) in effect stifuling growth and killing the fan support for the sport.
How right he was!!!!
The problem with todays NASCAR is that it is not relevant to anything the fan or prospective fan does on their time. Sure the cars are big, loud and V8 powered amd the Charger IS a rear drive car. That's it. Not a single nut or washer in a NASCAR vehicle is available on a production vehicle. There is no stock in the stock car. I realize that a production chassis and body would not be safe at 200 mph but maybe a stock engine block, or hood, roof and trunk body panels. Give the people something to relate to other than cheering or booing the drivers.
World Rally, Touring Cars and Aussie V8 Supercars have that connection and capture the imagination of the enthusiast in regards to what they own and drive.
I'm sure it would be much more interesting if I was in the stands but watching on TV? I'd rather cut the grass. HEY LOOK MARGE, HES MAKING ANOTHER HI SPEED LEFT CORNER!!
I find today's generic-bodied cars and stifled engine technology boring. I rarely watch any of the races after the Daytona 500 season kick-off. It has become too much like IROC with almost identically prepared cars and it is driver skill and luck that produces the winner, not the car/manufacturer. Who wants to watch a racing series where the winner is going to be determined by whoever was able to survive the crashes instead of which manufacturer brought the best technology to the track? Not me. Bring back the days when a manufacturer can show up with something that truly advances not only the sport, but filters down to the cars we can actually buy on Monday after a win on Sunday. It was advancements in engine design and aerodynamics that made the competition interesting in the '60s and '70s. Torino Talledegas and Cyclone Spoiler IIs, Charger 500s/Daytonas and Road Runner Superbirds, race Hemis and FE 427s/Boss 429s, that's what I'm talking about. I realize NASCAR had to make some changes as RWD cars were being killed off by Detroit, but now they're back. At least Ford, GM and Chrysler can sell you a reasonable facsimile of what is being raced. But a Camry? Seriously? Are we going to see Accords, Altimas and Sonatas next?
I realize that a production chassis and body would not be safe at 200 mph...
MN, I'm not so sure about that. Considering the new Dodge Charger can hit 175 MPH off the showroom floor and the Challenger can hit 182 MPH, I'd say gets them up to near-NASCAR speeds. There are other stock production cars that can go even faster. The Corvette and Viper come to mind. The problem is where can you drive that fast? Not on public roads and keep your license.
they were in the process of doing was turning Winston Cup racing into the IROC Series
That's not necessarily a bad thing. It depends what you are looking for in an auto race. The idea of IROC was that with identically prepared cars, the best DRIVER would win. In my opinion, that is the opposite of F1 where the drivers are basically a dime a dozen and the best RACECAR and TEAM win.
I don't consider either to be right or wrong. As I said before, I like all forms of auto racing for different reasons.
In fact, I'm really glad the many forms of auto racing are so different. It makes everything much more interesting. After watching a NASCAR race, you can switch over to an F1 race (usually at like 1 in the morning) and watch something completely different.
It's sort of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. I prefer the idea of using actual cars off the show room floor (with certain saftey items added of course). However, those forms of auto racing just aren't as interesting to watch. I agree that it seems pretty backwards that NASCAR doesn't use stock cars for their racing. However, when using the same basic car across the entire lineup, you get a much better quality of auto race. NASCAR provides a considerable better viewing experience in terms of racing, passing and overall action that you just don't get with F1, Grand-AM, or anything else.
I love and find all forms of auto racing interesting, but for many different reasons:
I like sports car races because it relates more to real life.
I like F1 because of the technological aspect of it.
I like NASCAR because it is simply the best racing.
It is funny, you say you don't watch NASCAR and apparently don't know very much about it...but you go ahead and write about it as if you do. Why don't you get a job where you are actually suppose to know about something in order to do it.
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