No. 984
February 20, 2018

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How much longer?

I don’t watch NASCAR for a variety of reasons but yesterday I happened to stop by a buddy's house who DOES watch it, and he had the TV on for the last 10 laps of the Daytona 500 (“our super bowl”). I never actually found out who won because it took, what, an hour to finish the race? They can’t make 10 laps without crashing a bunch of times? Keep it up, and there is going to be another Dale Earnhardt scenario. The drivers have to race within the rules, but I have to wonder how much longer the owners – and manufacturers – are going to tolerate destroying all that machinery and embarrassing themselves on national TV. 

P.S. - Well spoken in "Fumes," as always. The last thought, I hope you are right but think you are not. There are enough people who love NASCAR as it is, crashes and all (that’s just racin’) who watch this crap, in person and on TV, and say that we should leave it the way it is as long as their favorite driver does not get killed. And even if he does, there is always a new guy – same car number (?) to replace him. 

Ted R.
Raleigh, North Carolina

More on affordability.

Years ago, the prices were set up for you to buy every three, trade in and buy again. When the government mandated a seven year emissions warranty, that alone made cars last much longer, having to design to a worst case. At the same time, wages stagnated, but as 200k became the new 100k miles, the payment plans also dragged. We've topped out now, payments are at 84 (??) months, and wages still haven't moved. Car makers strive not to be a commodity, but…

The market wants a reliable 5k used car, and a new car for $17,000, which works out to be $350 x 48 before interest. The typical car is at least $500 x 48 now, (24K), which is too much for many, so it blows out to 60 months… a five year term. The car companies know exactly how much they can extract - so they do.

If you want more than the basic new car/CUV, then double all those numbers, and you see how a guy can end up with a $60k pickup truck over 84 months- $715 per month. (financial illiteracy aside).

What does it cost to actually build a car ? This is more secret than how to build an atomic bomb; and to the best of my knowledge, has never been leaked...

Casey Raskob, Esq 
Green Leafy Burbs, New York 

Fixing NASCAR.

Regarding Sunday's Daytona crash-fest: Among other changes, one of the things NASCAR really needs is to import the Formula 1 marshals and let them start handing out penalties right and left. Those three idiot rookies who caused the pit lane crashes on lap 160? Penalize them the next two races – don't show up, you're not going to be allowed to race. Whoever it was that caused that crash on lap 190? Four race penalty. Period. Likewise for the idiot on lap 196. Institute time penalties for bumping, er, ‘trading paint’. Pushing the car ahead of you? Fifteen second penalty. Hell, bring back the low speed pit drive thru penalties, or, better yet, the classic F1 penalty where the pit crew just has to stand there for x number of seconds before they can touch the car.

In other words institute penalties so the drivers are forced to actually drive like professional race drivers, not like the drunken redneck yahoos NASCAR currently seems to hire to man their the-hell-they're-stock cars.

F1 may have become boring in recent years, but I'd much rather watch Hamilton or Alonso win a race by ten seconds on a day that was all but decided by the halfway point, due to a better car and more talented driving, than watch these redneck crash-fests that supposedly represent American motorsport.

And if this is actually what the average ticket buyer wants for professional motorsport – well, that explains a lot about this country's current political situation.

Ashland, Virginia

A good thing.

I'm glad to read that I was not the only person to think that the Daytona 500 was dull. After reading the glowing reviews of the race, I was thinking that because I fell asleep during parts of the race, maybe I should watch a recording and see what exciting portions of the race I must of missed when I fell asleep. Good thing that I thought better of that.

East Galesburg, Illinois

Boring as shit.

The last ten laps of a restrictor plate race is like the last two minutes of a football game. Stoppage after stoppage and boring as shit. If NASCAR thinks what happened Sunday is the best they have to offer, they're hosed. How much sponsor money is being wasted on fixing/replacing busted up cars?

Jim Z.
Detroit, Michigan

Sucked in.

It happens to me every year. I get sucked in and seduced by Daytona. I want it to be different this year, I tell myself that come Sunday we will see a "Days of Thunder" Classic. Instead we get Ground Hog Day. They have a name for doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

Holly, Michigan 



So with car sales dropping into the abyss, with no end in sight, and car models being dropped from the lineup, why are Ford and GM even bothering with NASCAR car racing? The costs are huge to play in this arena and if you look at the car volumes in the near and not so near future, what is the possible return on that investment? GM had to lower the price on the Camaro just to move them off the lot and then put incentives on top of that. So lets say GM spends $65M on NASCAR (low ball number) and sells 50,000 Camaros in 2019 (not likely). How does this make sense? The irony in all this is that not too long ago GM wanted to pull out of the NASCAR Truck racing series but could not because Toyota planned to stay in and forced their hand. Now trucks are all that sells and the truck series may have more relevance than the car series. Go figure. You can't make this shit up.

Rochester, Michigan


Regarding the Daytona 500, I'll say what I always say: That ANY racing series would accept only 14 of a 40-car starting grid running at the end of the race, and that they calmly accept massive wrecks that endanger their drivers (and occasionally the fans behind the fence barriers) and talk about ‘reducing the costs of racing’ is operating from a moral and ethical bankruptcy gives me great pause.

I just don't understand it.

J. Wilson
Nashville, Tennessee

The High-Octane Truth.

I stopped watching NASCAR years ago. There is just nothing interesting about it any more.

Bloomfield, Michigan



The GMC Acadia getting a new 2.0L turbo sounded a little exciting. Maybe General Mommy had finally seen fit to equip it with a high-output version of its motor like the Audi 2.0 turbo. Maybe?
Wrong. Instead it's the same milk toast motor in the Caddy XT4, brimming with 230HP. (yawn)

Domestic SUVs are becoming so rife with ennui and boredom and generic styling that it's a wonder the makers even bother to put badges on them. It's becoming so hard to figure out who made what. Car makers might as well do the following with their vehicle branding: X-Brand, Very Small SUV. X-Brand, Less Small SUV. X-Brand, Moderate Size SUV. X-Brand, Larger Size SUV. X-Brand, Very Large Size SUV. Simply add the company name in place of X-Brand.

As for the Daytona 500, I didn't even know what channel it was on.

Jim Jones 
Cole County, Missouri

A giant "we'll see."

FCA was ahead of the curve predicting the market preferences for trucks and SUVs. Sergio was the only CEO that had the belief that EVs are basically a waste of resources. And Sergio had the cajones to say so. FCA also “right sized” their business model (plants & people) years ago. So for now FCA has no plant closures and layoffs going on like GM. And FCA has no vague floundering direction like FOMOCO. Hats off to Sergio... the shrewd dewd. Hopefully, Mike Manley can continue the Sergio legacy. So far so good.

Frank S.
Rochester, Michigan


Depressing thought.

Sadly, the photo you chose to run in this week's “Fumes” column is exactly what NASCAR wants to present. Why? Because that's what their TV audience wants to see. A deeply depressing thought to any fan of auto racing (or of any sport really).

Tuscon, Arizona

Probably not.

I was waiting to hear you hone in on the stupid tariffs being imposed by Washington buggering up world trade. Almost reminds me of what was happening in the late 1920's and early 1930's. Will we never learn?

Jim Harris
Nanaimo, British Columbia, CANADA



To Casey's Question: “What does it cost to build a car...?”

That's really no secret but the answer reveals what makes the automotive business such a financially suicidal pursuit in the first place. The answer:

-The first copy of an all new or majored vehicle out the door of the assembly plant costs somewhere north of a billion in R&D and tooling expenditures. 
-The next hundred thousand or two cost the fully burdened collective labor, plant overhead, purchased components and material that go into them. 
-The ones after that are where the money is made, the fixed investment and overhead has been covered now so these very desirable vehicles carry only variable costs of material and labor.

In many cases when in the planning stages the program leaders together with the bean counters predict what they will sell in hopeful numbers that make the product plan look sensible financially. When these wishful volumes don't materialize in actual sales the product build never makes it to that third category of money making vehicles and it all goes to hell in a hand basket. The flip side are the pickup trucks and sister utilities that reliably bust those break-even volumes and spin off (hopefully) enough cash to keep the business afloat.

Farmington Hills, M

Daytona 500.

God's honest, I accidentally tuned into the Daytona 500 with 15 laps left, and boy was I sorry I did. They had a caution around then, and bunched up for the restart. I said to the boss, watch this, they are gonna wreck for sure. I don't think the words were completely out of my mouth before that 18 car debacle happened.We watched two more crashes on the first lap of the ensuing restarts, then turned it off.

So much for NASCAR. What a joke.

Atlanta, Georgia


Fixing NASCAR, Part IX.

At first, I was inclined to agree with Syke from VA that penalties should be handed out to those causing the wrecks, including Jimmie Johnson in both the Clash and the 125… I would say DSQ would be appropriate.

But, no. As well as that may address the symptoms, it's not really the right thing to do.

First, NASCAR needs to pull its head back out into the daylight…

And then they need to refocus on STOCK cars. Allow go-fast modifications with limits, but Body kits are out. Make the cars squirrelly. Drivers will adapt. The best drivers will rise to the challenge. And, reduce the race length of almost every race. We don't need 4 hour events weekly.

I actually like NASCAR. A number of drivers who I have seen at lower levels have gone on to show their stuff there. But today's product is terrible. I was a big fan of Geoff Bodine years ago as he set records in the Northeast. He won everything in sight in one year (1979, I think). He really needed a next level. NASCAR is that. Or, it was that.

The last point is, too many ovals. I know who owns them, and they won't remove them from the schedule, but road races are so much better and more engaging to both driver and fan. Road races bring out the driver's skill, and that should be the focus. I know…, but one can still wish.

Brighton, Michigan