I’m a big motorsports fan, NASCAR in particular. Over the years, NASCAR has never been shy about making changes to the cars and rules to make the sport safer and more appealing to the fans. Three years ago, NASCAR introduced it’s ‘Car of Tomorrow’ Cup car. The ‘new’ car was boxier and far less aerodynamic than the previous car, which was in use for about fifteen to twenty years. Indeed, stock cars in the NASCAR world have not been ‘stock’ for decades. The so-called ‘twisted sister’ car was about as from stock as one could get. Over its life time, teams managed to bend the rules regarding the car while staying within said rules to gain competitive advantages over rival teams. While that iteration of the car was far safer than the previous iterations, it was still pretty dangerous. So NASCAR set about to make the car not only safer, but also to tighten up the design of the car and make it far less ‘tweakable’ so that the cars are closer, aerodynamically and spec wise than any previous iteration. One of the changes that NASCAR put in place was to replace the blade style spoiler with a more efficient and, to me, more pleasing wing on the decklid. The wing made the car a little less stable at higher speeds thus requiring the drivers to, you know, actually DRIVE the damned car. They couldn’t go full steam AND maintain enough control to keep the car stable. This forced the drivers to slow down just enough so they wouldn’t wreck and made the racing tighter. The result was some really close racing and races where there were ten to twenty cars that could win versus five to ten in previous years. The racing was better and safer.
Several horrendous looking wrecks in the last three seasons resulted in no serious injuries and drivers walking away. A few of these wrecks, in the old car, could have either ended careers or resulted in a driver with serious injury. The stark contrast in cars was made very clear, recently, at the Bristol racetrack. A non-NASCAR sanctioned event, featuring 12 older, retired drivers in a ‘legends’ event. The cars were former Cup cars of the ‘twisted sister’ style. Now, the current car features a bigger ‘greenhouse’, i.e. the interior, and reinforced doors. The doors have several inches of foam and other materials that not only absorb the impact but also provide a barrier between the roll bars, the door panel and the driver. The older cars did not have these features. During the legends race, Larry Pearson spun and slid down the track sideways. Charlie Glotzbach plowed into the driver’s side of the car, just behind the front wheel. Pearson suffered multiple injuries, broken bones and was knocked out. Had he been in the current gen car, he, more than likely, would have climbed out with, maybe, just a few bruises.
Even with all of the positives about the new style car, many ‘traditional’ NASCAR fans were upset because NASCAR changed their sport. I have to say, when I first saw it, I was a bit upset as well. I got over quickly. After seeing the car on the track and listening to a few of the drivers who had been involved in testing the car, I knew it would be OK. After seeing it in a race for the first time (oddly enough at Bristol,) I knew this car was going to change the sport for the better. And the wing…boy it sure looked cool. I love the wing and, for me, legitimizes the car. The blade style spoiler always looked funny to me. Apparently, I’m in a very small minority here.
Fans, as it turned out, loathed the wing. The car grew on them, but not the wing. And NASCAR fans are very vocal too. And emotional. As a Sirius/XM subscriber, I listen to the talk shows on the NASCAR channel and have listened to a seemingly endless barrage of anti wing rants from, mostly, the same group of narrow minded ‘fans.’ These are people who think we should never have moved away from the decidedly unsafe, ugly and terrible cars from the 1960’s. They feel like the racing is boring. The few accidents in the last three years that resulted in cars going airborne (there have been four that I can recall) is all because of the wing. Because, you know, cars NEVER went airborne before. Never mind Tony Stewart literally flying over half the field in a Daytona 500 several years ago. Nevermind Richard Petty’s barrell rolls at Daytona in 1988. And forget that the reason why NASCAR instituted restricter plates at Talledega and Daytona because Bobby Allison went airborne in a 1980’s Oldsmobile. His car went airborne, right into the catch fence that barely kept his car out of the grandstand. No, never mind any of that. Cars only went airborne since the wing.
Well, NASCAR has caved to these people and are replacing the wing with a modified blade style spoiler. So, for no real technical reason, the sanctioning body is going ‘old style’ again and putting the lame spoiler back on the cars. If they truly went ‘old style’, they would forego any spoiler or wing. Prior to the late 1960’s, they didn’t even have spoilers. Back when NASCAR truly was a ‘good old boy’ sport, it was rather unsophisticated. They probably didn’t know what ‘aerodynamic’ even meant. Fortunately, everyone involved today are pretty smart and aerodynamics plays a vital role in the sport. If there truly is a technical advantage and reason for the switch, NASCAR has not let us know. They have admitted to making the changed pretty much because of the fans. Overall, I suppose that it is a good thing that they actually do listen to the very people that support the sport. And, ultimately, there are far more important things to get riled up over than the removal of the wing. I, personally, don’t think the racing is going to be as tight now, but, who knows, maybe it will. I hope so. Now, where can I get the little Matchbox cars with the wing…they MUST be worth something now, huh?