As we look to this weekend and Martinsville’s hosting of the Cup and Truck Series, an old friend will be making a return. The rear wing will be removed from the Cup car’s deck lid and be replaced with a spoiler.

This move was originally announced in January at NASCAR’s stop on the annual media tour. The intent was for aesthetics. A large group of race fans have complained that they did not care for the look of the current car. One detail that was common among complaints was the rear wing’s appearance.

Both spoiler and wing variations were tested aerodynamically during the car’s development period. A decision was made by NASCAR to go with the wing. After three years on the tour, the spoiler is back.

This brings the appearance back in line with a type of car we all fell in love with in the first place: a hot rod, muscle car, stock car, or call it what you will. Exotic sports cars have a wing and look cool but belong in a separate category and class than stock car racing.

Now the time has come to see how the spoiler will effect the machines on a speedway, and see beyond just how they look. Martinsville is great place to start with as little aerodynamic input as possible. But aero is not eliminated.

I have been part of a team that had a Martinsville car with a new body in a wind tunnel. Our body hangers were successful in improving downforce. This was a great plan that wound up against the turn one wall very early in the 500-lap race. That’s racing…

A group of teams recently tested different spoiler packages at Talladega and Charlotte. Restrictor plate size was examined at Talladega along with spoiler size, degree, and gear ratios at both tracks. Now comes the interesting part of making a decision.

The racing in 2010 has been improved when compared to the last few seasons. The trick is for NASCAR to make fans happy with the car’s appearance and still continue to improve the racing quality.

Every time a rule is changed, that delays any team’s ability to hit the mark on this chassis. So drastic rule changes have not been made. But more subtle changes, not visible on television broadcasts, have been implemented over the years.

I don’t feel a significant competition change will be seen with the naked eye at Martinsville. But the driver’s feel will be different. Radio chatter in practice on Friday will likely be busy with feedback on rear grip. Either a lot more or less will be felt as crew chiefs call for changes to get a better feel on the rear end. This may open the possibility of an upset if a team can get feel for the spoiler change quicker than anyone else can.

Larger tests loom with Phoenix, Texas and Talladega beyond Sunday’s race at the Virginia half-mile oval. But don’t overlook Martinsville as the start of crew chiefs filling their new notebooks on the spoiler and COT combination package.

(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR mechanic who co-hosts the One and Done auto racing radio talk show Tuesdays at 11am ET. Listen at

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