The NASCAR Nationwide Series looked good at Daytona. They looked a little more like cars. That is a wonderful thing for the sport.
“Whatever happened to win on Sunday, sell on Monday?” asked a friend of mine who is a casual auto racing fan. “Whatever happened to taking a car from the dealer and turning it into a racecar?”
It’s been close to the 40-year range since stock vehicles were transformed into top-level NASCAR machines.
The Late Model Sportsman evolved into the Nationwide Series. And the bodies evolved into something unrecognizable.
Body panel by body panel and decade by decade stock cars were transformed from racers that looked like they came from the showroom floor into cars that without decals, was anyone’s guest who the “manufacturer” was.
Representatives of each carmaker lobbied NASCAR for a slight alteration here and there. They all cried some sort of disadvantage and desired the change in the name of better competition.
As the years passed, body styles that came from a dealership, soon just resembled them. Then the look became what was nicknamed the “twisted sister.” The sheet metal could have been mistaken for a crashed car. The only significant difference was the grill opening and the decals displaying the engine block manufacturer.
Gone were cool looking Chevelles, Novas, and Venturas. Replacing them were Monte Carlos and Fusions that I needed an entry form to tell what they were.
The Car of Tomorrow in Cup has now become the Car of Today in which it is a safer piece. Increased safety is always a good thing and a path that should be followed. But the body styles all look identical and sterile. They did not excite any passion within the fan base and are actually a big turn off.
The COT in the Nationwide Series debuted recently in Daytona and is slated for a few more events in 2010. Michigan in August, Richmond in September and Charlotte in October will host the new car. A full 2011 rollout is possible.
The Nationwide chassis with a larger greenhouse and cockpit area avoided the Cup Series mentality and allowed some personality to be put into the appearance. Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang style bodies were used giving the muscle cars a platform in a premiere stock car series. This long-desired move has seemed pretty obvious for many years. Go figure?
Chevrolet chose not to include their Camaro and stay with the Impala brand, in a missed promotional opportunity. Toyota continued with their Camry marketing.
Regardless of body choice this was long overdue. Racecars that fans can identify with are something the grandstand crowds have complained they wanted for years. And all of the body styles racing in Daytona Beach resembled something. Racing could possibly reenter a grand time when a car was recognizable by appearance.
To play devil’s advocate, I do not place blame entirely on the decision-makers with NASCAR. Automobile manufacturers have not constructed street vehicles with a lot of personality either. No longer can a car enthusiast tell a make, model, and year simply by seeing a photo of a headlight. The smaller, lightweight, more efficient streetcars all share similar traits no matter what factory they were rolled out of. Honestly, I can tell very few apart going down the highway without looking at the emblem.
With the positive reaction the Nationwide COT is getting, a negative is the body styles bleeding over to the Cup side of the garage area. I agree the same thought process should go over there, just not the same sheet metal.
Cup would look great with its identifiable cars. Just not the same models as Nationwide. Let Cup get its own unique bodies with character and personality. Machines that are easily told apart from their respective series when parked right next to one another would better serve NASCAR.
Over all these years, this is a concept NASCAR and the carmakers never should have veered from in the first place.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Thursdays at 9pm ET. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com)
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