How to Make NASCAR Mean Something Again

NASCAR is meaningless

Win on Sunday, sell on Monday. That was the mantra of stock car racing, which once-upon-a-time pitted Fords, Chevys, Buicks, Hudsons, and Plymouths not all that dissimilar from what you could buy off the showroom floors against one another in epic displays of speed and daring. Racing improved the breed, with aero tricks and the latest engine whiz-bang kit eventually seeing its way from the race track to the show room. That was the justification of racing. That was its purpose.

Following that logic, we have to sit down and finally accept that NASCAR is a racing series without a purpose.

Consider that the series only recently adopted fuel injection- a technology that has been around for six decades now (the first car to use fuel injection was the 1954/1955 Mercedes SL).

Consider, also, that the cars racing in NASCAR feature solid axle rear suspensions- a feature shared only with the techno-throwback Ford Mustang, and even that car has done away with the horseless wagon-era design for 2015.

Consider that the NASCAR stockers don’t have anti-lock brakes, traction control, or active aerodynamic shutters to reduce wind resistance- all of which are available on even the most common, entry-level Fords, Chevys, and Toyotas of today.

Consider that the NASCAR Chevy, Ford, and Toyota racers of today all run antiquated pushrod V8s that would have been considered technological throwbacks twenty years ago, too.

Once you’ve considered all that, you sort of have to admit that NASCAR does nothing to improve the passenger car breed. You have to admit, also, that- with so little in common between the race cars and street cars they’ve been made to loosely resemble- a win on Sunday doesn’t a sale on Monday make.

You could argue, of course, that NASCAR is doing good work, promoting E15 and showing that the homegrown, renewable, low-emission biofuel is far from the engine-destroying devil-juice that the big oil companies would have you believe. Still, this is NASCAR we’re talking about here- the WWE of motor racing- and the Tea Party wingnuts who urge the American Ethanol-sponsored no. 3 Chevrolet on with shouts and yelps and fists pumping in the air are more likely to head home and vote Republitard than Demorat, so who is all that ethanol money really helping?

No one, that’s who.

That said, it doesn’t have to be this way. NASCAR doesn’t have to be useless, and the leap from “WWE of motor racing” to “the World’s Premier Oval Racing Series” might be shorter (and cheaper!) than you might think.

 

How to Make NASCAR Meaningful Again

 

NASCAR Needs Modern Engines

Big, pushrod V8 engines are dinosaurs. Don’t get me wrong- they certainly have their place, but that place is not on a race track. The track is about pushing the envelope and improving the passenger car breed, and today’s passenger car breed is all about small, turbocharged 6-cylinder engines. Engines like the Ecoboost V6 in Ford’s (NASCAR-owned) Daytona Prototype race cars. Engines like the twin-turbo V6 Indy engines fielded by Chevy and Honda. Engines like the twin-turbo V6 being developed for Toyota’s new Supra and BMW’s new 3 and 4 series cars.

See? That doesn’t have to expensive, since a lot of the R&D has been done already. Further, you can forge a more relevant link between race car and street car with an engine than you can with, say, headlamp stickers, you know?

 

NASCAR Needs Modern Fuels

This one becomes far easier after you’ve introduced modern, turbocharged engines to NASCAR. Simply, the nature of turbochargers and advanced engine management software would allow race teams to truly optimize their engines for alternative, homegrown fuels like bamboo-sourced E100, corn-based E85, or even compressed natural gas. You could even envision a NASCAR series that allowed multiple fuels on the track at once, with the E85 guys racing the pump gas guys racing the CNG guys for dominance within the same hardware and engine controller limits. Heck, why not allow hybrids into the mix, as well? It worked for Formula 1!

For sure, that fuels idea needs tweaking, but if NASCAR want to stop being the dino-series du jour, they’re gonna have to stop depending on dino-juice.

 

NASCAR Needs to Race in the Rain

Racing-in-the-Rain

It may surprise people who think NASCAR drivers are among the toughest, bravest, red-bloodedest Americans out there to learn that NASCAR is just about the only major racing series that doesn’t race in the rain. Now, I’m not saying it’s because the sport is currently filled with a bunch of sheltered, manicured, PR-driven wussy millionaire cry-babies … but I am wondering why it is that other series with more horsepower, lighter cars, looser safety regs, and higher top speeds than NASCAR race in the rain, and NASCAR doesn’t

This is where NASCAR can really push the envelope of passenger car design and improve the breed. With their high weight and passenger car-ish bodywork, NASCAR stockers most closely resemble the rain tire needs of the typical American family sedan. Yeah, yeah, “GT racing”, I know- but nobody watches that, so stay with me. (Guess I’m nobody. – DeMorro)

If NASCAR made its premier series race in the rain, we’d quickly see highly efficient rain tires moving gallons of water from the track while, at the same time, maximizing lateral grip at high speeds and in close formation- exactly what the psycho maniacs do on Chicago’s 290 during thunderstorms. The windshield wiper companies would have a whole new R&D field and NASCAR teams would have a whole new group of potential sponsors.

Furthermore, let’s allow traction control and anti-lock braking in NASCAR, since those have already become prevalent in passenger cars. With rain tires, advanced wipers, and traction control for wet races, even the most safety-conscious NASCAR drivers should have no trouble chasing each other around a damp track.

Those are my ideas- and, I think, they’re good ones. If they were implemented tomorrow, you’d immediately be able to start wooing Honda, Nissan, and BMW into NASCAR- and all of those companies build scads of cars in the US, so no “‘MURICA!” shouts, OK?

Still, I do- now and then- get ahead of myself. What do you guys think? Would changes like these help to make NASCAR meaningful again, or is NASCAR doomed to remain the backwards, inbred, hill-jack cousin of real motor sports forever? Let us know what you think in the comments, below. Enjoy!

 

Original content from Gas 2.

 

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.