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Author, commentator, influencer. "The Consigliere." Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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FUMES #448

June 4, 2008

The "NASCAR Way" lives in Grand-Am.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

NASCAR's "Junior League" - aka the Grand-Am series - is at it again. Grand-Am's latest attempt at "managing" the competitive balance in its GT class is so laughable that it merits attention. A press release went out last week from the Grand-Am series announcing that it was slapping an additional 100 pounds of weight on the Pontiac GXP.R and GTO.R teams effective immediately, and that the maximum rear weight percentage for these Pontiac entries will be 49 percent, meaning that 51 percent or more of the weight must be on the front tires. The rule change will be in effect for the series' next race, the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International, on June 7.

"Grand Am has an obligation to maintain competitive balance in the GT field to the best of our ability," said David Spitzer, Grand-Am Vice President of Competition. "The biggest new variable that has been introduced for the 2008 race season is the Pirelli tire. While the tire has more grip for all cars, it allows greater durability on the Pontiac entries than for the Porsche and Mazda cars. This change will bring the competition into balance both in terms of outright lap time and tire durability over the race distance. Our analysis included consideration of all races this season, and analysis of all the tracks where we raced in 2007," Spitzer said. "We understand that some tracks naturally favor some cars more than others – that is part of racing, just as teams and drivers have favorite tracks."

The Grand-Am press release continued: "Pontiac is riding a five-race winning streak in the GT class. Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards won Monday's race at Lime Rock Park for their third victory of the season in the Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R, while the Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R of Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell has two victories. The lone non-Pontiac victory of 2008 was scored by the SpeedSource Castrol Mazda RX-8 of Sylvain Tremblay, Nick Ham, David Haskell and Raphael Matos in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona."

Yes, the Pontiac GXP.R has had good success thus far this year with five wins. Yes, certain tracks favor the cars (Lime Rock) as Spitzer pointed out, but others don't (Daytona). The Pontiac wins so far this season have been balanced between the independent teams and the factory-backed cars. Good pit strategy and fortuitous incidents like the leading Mazda spinning out on the last lap and dropping back to 3rd place contributed to one of the victories (at Laguna Seca) too. But after Pontiac spanked the GT field at Lime Rock in a dominating performance on Memorial Day, Spitzer decided that enough was enough, and the Pontiac teams needed some "competitive balance adjustments."

Let's back up a minute. Isn't this the same Dave Spitzer who at one point managed the Cadillac CTS-V program for GM Racing? Or attempted to at any rate? Yes, it is. He has now been hired by the NASCAR brain trust to lead the Grand-Am Series to the Promised Land, with thanks to Wayne Taylor and Jim France, apparently. He's also the same guy who was unsuccessful in his attempt to become Director of GM Racing, which is why he was angling to leave the company in the first place. Some have even suggested that Spitzer is being positioned to take over for Mike Helton, which is a notion that has people within GM cringing and/or laughing at the thought.

Now, I don't know if this "competitive balance adjustment" was meant to signal that Spitzer's GM affiliation is well and truly a thing of the past, or that he was just fine-tuning his lackluster decision-making process from his GM days, but before Lime Rock the Pontiac weighed 524 pounds more than the Mazda. Starting at The Glen this weekend, the Pontiac will weigh 624 pounds more. Here are the weight totals for the competitors in the Grand-Am GT class:

Corvette - 2550 lb. minimum
Mazda - 2200 lb. minimum (2288 w/transaxle)
Porsche - 2700 lb. minimum
Pontiac - 2800 lb. minimum (2912 w/ transaxle), maximum 49% rear weight distribution

As anyone with even a passing interest in racing knows, that kind of weight differential is eye-opening, to say the least. Grand-Am says that it does not expect to make any further adjustments for the duration of the 2008 season, but you can be sure that if the Pontiac teams win again in the next few races, all of a sudden another "adjustment" will be made in an attempt at arriving at a "competitive balance."

Not exactly fair, when you come to think about it. But then again NASCAR has never been about fair, not by any stretch of the imagination. This is purely a political decision, with the added benefit that since the "CoTs" are allegedly tamper-proof these days, NASCAR can keep in "meddling" shape by messing with the Grand-Am GT category.

It's only fitting. After all, it's the "NASCAR Way."


Publisher's Note: In our continuing series celebrating the "Golden Era" of American racing history, here is another image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Ford Racing Archives)
LeMans, France, 1964. The Phil Hill/Bruce McLaren No. 10 factory Ford GT40 at speed through the esses. Hill stormed from 32nd into the top three during the night, establishing a new outright lap record of 131.375 mph, but the car had to be retired early in the morning due to a broken gearbox. Jean Guichet and Nino Vaccarella went on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year in their factory-entered Ferrari 275P. Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant finished 4th overall and 1st in GT in their Shelby-American-entered Cobra Daytona Coupe.