“I hate to be Denny downer, but I just didn't pass that many cars today. That's the realistic fact of it.” It’s an interesting observation from Denny Hamlin, the driver who had to race his hiney off to finish third at the Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Phoenix. Reigning Sprint Cup champ Brad Keselowski agrees, ““It’s harder than ever to pass. You have to be really good. The cars are so aero sensitive.”
Getting the entirety of NASCAR Nation to agree on much is like trying to herd cats, but it goes without saying that the consensus after two races is that the new car looks a ton better than its predecessor, but the racing all too well still tends to resemble what was seen in the race car formerly known as the Car of Tomorrow.
To be fair, the racing season is young and the races we’ve had have been at two entirely different kinds of tracks; tracks that have their own separate racing issues. With Daytona, you have the restrictor plates and the recent work on the surface. At Phoenix, you have another re-tooled track, but a much smaller, flatter path. With both Daytona and PIR you have tracks where the reviews regarding racing tend to be pretty mixed.
Coming up, Las Vegas may offer the most realistic glimpse of what is to come. At a mile and a half, this track offers looks much like the bulk of the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. For this fan, its become a case of hoping for the best, but bracing for the worst. This comes from an observer who is a much easier sell than some, who have been tearing their hair out for years with the quality of racing in NASCAR.
To be honest, some of the challenges experienced so far aren’t a huge surprise. You can test until the cows come home, but testing is not racing. The good news is 34 more points paying races make for a long season, and plenty of of opportunity to come up with a fix.
It brings to mind an old adage taught to novice salespeople. We were taught to “under-promise,” and “over-deliver.” This, frankly, is where NASCAR tends to be its own worst enemy. What is wrong with coming out of the gate and saying, “Look fans- we all agree this new car looks better, we’re doing some different things with what this car is made of, but like a rookie driver, this car is in its rookie season, and we’ll tweak as we go until we hit the happy medium.” We’re all big boys and girls here. I think we can accept that, can’t we?
It just seems like the whole situation could be made better by offering a truly honest assessment of the situation, instead of becoming a real life version of “The Emperor's New Clothes.” (Ugh. Brian France and Mike Helton cast as the emperor? Now there’s a thought that will make you spew your coffee).
The deal is, the new car is a big improvement on many scores over the old one. With that said, it never was the silver bullet, and should never have been presented that way.
In fact, I am an optimist by nature, and if we can put a man on the moon, fixing the aero problem can’t be a completely impossible task, can it? No doubt they’re working on it, and for my part, I’m fine with that. Let’s keep soldiering on, put some good minds on it, and not insult the fan’s intelligence in the meanwhile.
That…..would be a good start.
Other articles by Jim McCoy include.....
Phoenix: A More Realistic Look Into 2013
Larson, Park Make It A Battle Alright
What About NASCAR Racing In Heats?
Jim McCoy is a radio and television sports reporter/ play-by-play announcer who lives in Oregon with his wife and three children. When not busy with those interests, he likes chatting up all things NASCAR with his fellow fans.