Sep 17, 2007
Through the Looking Glass with the Car of TomorrowBy JR Nerad
Certainly the machinations at NASCAR often seem like a chapter from Alice in Wonderland, but the recent Car of Tomorrow testing sessions really make it seem as if we have all fallen through the rabbit hole to a very foreign place. Looking at it all through NASCAR's rose-colored glasses, perhaps it all makes sense. But viewed with an objective eye, one might think the sanctioning body had put both feet firmly in Bizarro World, where it is a crime to do anything well.
Why do we say this? Well, for two reasons, really. First, there was the objective of the test sessions at the famous Talladega Superspeedway -- to make sure the racecars went slow enough. Yes, let me repeat that. The objective of the test sessions was to make absolutely certain that the all-new, all-singing, all-dancing Car of Tomorrow racecars were slow enough.
Now forgive me for having spent most of my time on Earth and not on Htrae, which is the planet where Bizarro World resides, but where I come from, the goal was to make racecars go faster, not slower. So it is difficult to wrap my head around the fact that NASCAR has decided that it had better make sure this new racecar is slow enough, or there will be hell -- or should I say heck -- to pay.
NASCAR officials will tell you that they are doing it for safety reasons. Cars hurtling down the track at 210 miles per hour are apparently woefully unsafe, while cars hurtling down the track at 196 mph, the top speed of one of the test sessions, are apparently as safe as driving with Miss Daisy. Only the cynical would say that the real goal is to keep the cars so tightly bunched that there will be some great multi-car crashes, you know, the kind that the TV viewers really get a charge out of. But not necessarily what one would call "safe."
Oh, and there's another reason we were taken aback by the test. The method of limiting speed in the Car of Tomorrow is by adjusting the size of the restrictor plate in its carburetor. Yes, carburetor! Now try to find a current passenger car whose engine is equipped with a carburetor, yet the "Car of Tomorrow" has one. Next, NASCAR will insist that each car have a riding mechanic and carry its spare tires on the rear deck.
What this all says is that NASCAR is about the show. And there's nothing wrong with that. Most of us love show business and love to be entertained. But let's be clear on what the goal of the COT testing has been -- it's to make better shows, not faster racecars. Welcome to Bizarro World. Please check your brains at the door.
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