By Peter M. De Lorenzo
Detroit. Following up last week's column - "Just Askin' " - I think it would be a good time to engage in some future-think about what NASCAR might look like in five years, or more accurately, what I think it should look like. It's perfectly reasonable, of course, to expect that we may not see that much change in the ensuing five years, but then again, given the pace of more substantive changes emanating from NASCAR of late - and more important, the willingness to investigate new thinking - actually I believe that the stock car racing entity is on the verge of transforming itself and with a palpable sense of urgency, too, which is something I find refreshing and applaud wholeheartedly.
So, what should NASCAR look like in 2020, at least from The Autoextremist perspective?
The Schedule. First of all, I would divide the schedule into three, ten-race modules total (including the All-Star event*). Each of these ten-race modules would be punctuated by a one week break after the fifth race. Of those 30 events, five of the races would be on natural-terrain road courses (Laguna Seca, Road America, Road Atlanta, Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen). Some tracks would lose double date visits, obviously, and other new tracks would be rotated in and out every other year to inject variety, color and interest into the schedule. (*A complete rethink of the all-star event would require the use of Global Rallycross cars representing the manufacturers involved on a specially-constructed course at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.)
The Cars. New rules would be in effect that would move the cars even closer to the production body configurations. Teams would be allowed (depending on the track and a manufacturer's choice) to use any of four engine configurations including 4-cylinder turbo, V6 turbo, normally-aspirated V6 or normally-aspirated V8s (manufacturers would have to notify NASCAR as to which engines at which tracks would be used ahead of the start of the season). Direct-injection and other modern engine components would be allowed. On-board, in-race data collection and on-camera projection of that data (for TV) would be mandatory. In addition, the rules would require the teams to run FIA GT3-specification cars from their respective manufacturers for the road course races, and specially-constructed GRC cars for the All-Star event (as mentioned above).
The Tracks. A few premier, long-distance races would remain (Daytona 500, Charlotte 600, Daytona 400, Brickyard 400 and 500-milers at Charlotte and Talladega in the fall), but the rest of the races wouldn't exceed 350 miles.
Safety. An intensive research and development program would be undertaken to completely rethink and revise the idea of catch-fencing - what it is, how it works and how it is built. Restrictor-plate racing would be a thing of the past, with a new high-horsepower/low-downforce engine configuration/aero package required for the high-banked superspeedways that would see the drivers having to lift off of the throttle going into the corners. On-board jacking would be mandatory, along with dry-break refueling rigs and center lock wheel hubs. Manual jacking, gas can refueling and multiple lug nuts per wheel would be relegated to the NASCAR history books.
These recommendations are admittedly more general in nature than what I've written in the past, but this column is meant to be a discussion starter, and NASCAR moving forward in a meaningful direction is the ultimate goal.
And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.
Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD
(Photo courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1966. Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, a goggled Ford/Lincoln-Mercury operative and Bud Moore (with crew in the background) pose for the announcement of Ford's Lincoln-Mercury Cougar racing effort for the 1967 Trans-Am series. Jones, Gurney and Peter Revson combined to win four races in '67 and lost to the other Ford factory entry - of Shelby American Mustangs - by two points. Moore returned to the Trans-Am series in 1969 - this time as the lead factory Ford Mustang team - where he pushed Chevrolet's dominant duo of Roger Penske and Mark Donohue (No. 6 Sunoco Camaro) to the wire in one of the most competitive Trans-Am seasons on record. But the 1970 season was when everything came together for Moore and Ford, with Jones (ably assisted by talented teammate George Follmer) capturing a memorable Trans-Am championship in his school bus yellow No. 15 Mustang, defeating Mark Donohue in the Penske Racing AMC Javelin. Moore, a decorated veteran of World War II, and who liked to describe himself as "an old country mechanic who loved to make 'em run fast" is in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Publisher's Note: Like these Ford racing photos? Check out www.fordimages.com. Be forewarned, however, because you won't be able to go there and not order something. - PMD