Although it has been about as welcome so far as a fly in your soup, ten years from now we may look back on the infamous Car of Tomorrow as one of the great innovations that helped save NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.
Now, before you dismiss this column as the ravings of a lunatic, hear me out. Anyone that hasn't had their head under a rock for the last several months knows that the United States - and the rest of the world, for that matter - is in a drastic economic slowdown.
We'll leave the argument about whether or not the “recession” label applies here to the economists, but it is well known that race teams are having trouble lining up sponsors, fan attendance last season was off, and there may be as many as 1,000 layoffs among race teams. That's the bad news, but the good news is we expect NASCAR to come out of this in pretty good shape.
Fan support is still strong, and those fans will start coming back as soon as the economy improves. But in the meantime, NASCAR - and the teams that race in the series - will have to tighten its belt.
Putting a stop to testing will definitely help. But the biggest difference, although people aren't talking about it, has already been made with the CoT. Entering its third season of racing at Daytona this February, the CoT is now an established technology. And one of the biggest selling points of the car to teams should start seeing benefits this season. Namely, the same chassis can be raced just about anywhere the series goes.
With the older generation of chassis, teams had gotten so specialized that they had different chassis designs depending on the track. We're not just talking about one chassis for Talladega and a different for Martinsville. No, many teams had different cars built depending on if the mile-and-a-half track they were heading to was flat or had relatively steep banking. There's nothing to keep a well-funded team from building a fleet of CoT race cars, but they all have to be relatively the same. This means a team with less funding can be much more competitive with fewer cars.
The powers-that-be at NASCAR may not always make decisions we like. And they won't be right all the time, either. But this time around it seems that it's time we gave the CoT a fresh look given the current climate in racing and see if it has a few more benefits that we may have missed earlier.
by David Miller