Savings Accounts

The latest NASCAR rules change to mandate certain rear differential gears in 2005 and has not been widely embraced by the team owners or drivers. Oddly enough the folks who hate the rule the most are the same ones who were outraged over the "one engine per weekend" rule that most will now admit does in fact save money. Of course it's the biggest teams with the highest budgets that are going to protest the most when a rules change threatens to take away some of their advantage. But regardless as to whether the gear rule will in fact save team owners money that is the stated intent of the rule.

And it's high time that NASCAR addresses the exorbinant cost of Cup racing. Even teams that currently have a 18 million dollar sponsorship to work with have to be a little nervous wondering how many more sugar daddies with pockets that deep are out there should they lose their current sponsor. Below are some ideas to try to reign in the runaway cost of Cup racing.

Tire Limits- This idea isn't particularly new but it doesn't seem anyone at NASCAR has been studying it. In the Busch series each team can only change three sets of tires during caution periods. (They can however change as many sets as they want under green flag conditions.) Obviously with most Cup races running twice the distance of the Busch series three sets of tires isn't going to work in Cup. A more reasonable number might be eight sets of tires a Cup team can use all weekend including practice, qualifying and the race itself. I'm not carving the number 8 in granite. Those more familiar with each track would probably be better able to judge what a reasonable amount of tires for an event might be. (You need more tires for a 500 miler at Darlington than you do for 500 miles at California for instance.) But it just seems silly that during a lot of races teams will change four tires under caution and yet when another caution flies eight laps later they'll stop again for fresh rubber because most everyone else does. That's just wasteful. And make no mistake these Goodyear Eagles are expensive. At $1600 plus a set tire expense is a huge part of a race team's budget.

As a bonus, a tire limit rule might actually make for better and more interesting racing as it often does in the Busch series. If one team saves a set of tires for a late caution flag while the rest of the front runners have used up their allotment that team's driver is going to look like Superman as he comes back through the field after pitting for his final set of tires. But of course if that final caution flag never flies the team is left with a spare set of tires in the pits and the driver will probably be lucky to finish in the top 10 after running much of the race on tires more worn then his competitors. It's part strategy and part gambling but it does make for some interesting racing.

600 CFM Carburetors- Most people in the know will tell you that by decreasing the speed in Cup cars (barring something foolish like adding a restrictor plate) tends to make the racing better. Writing this column I am trying my damnedest not to get too technical so let me explain this idea for those of you have never rebuilt an 850 double-pumper on the kitchen table late on Sunday night so you can get to work Monday. (Shame on you!)

Carburetors come in various different sizes. (You needn't worry about what size you have. I'm 90% sure your daily driver is fuel injected.) They are rated by how much air they will flow, a rating expressed in cubic feet per minute. (CFM) Because an 850 CFM carb will flow more air (which then mixes with gas) than a 600 CFM unit, if the engine is properly designed an engine with the 850 carb will make more power. If you're still confused maybe this will help. Imagine two runners competing in a race. One is breathing through a three inch diameter pipe while the other is breathing through a soda straw. Obviously the guy getting more air is going to run faster.

Currently the Cup cars run an 830 CFM carb. Scaling that back to 600 CFM carbs would reduce power and also not allow the engines to turn such high RPM. Or it would for about a month until teams learned how to trick out the 600 CFM carbs at which point the power would be back up as would cost. We don't want that. Thus NASCAR will provide each team with a spec 600 CFM carb prior to each race weekend. Most likely it would be a Holley because Holley is the 600 pound gorilla of aftermarket carbs. But it could be a Barry Grant unit or a carb made by another manufacturer as part of a contingency program to save the teams more money. The important thing is all the teams would have the same carb, a puny little 600 CFM carb typical of what you find under the hood of small block street machines. No exotic tricks. We're looking for a list price of about $250 bucks. When the teams got their carbs the float bowls would be sealed. No modifications to the carb of any type would be allowed under penalty of disqualification. Jet it and forget it. (The aftermarket offers carb plates that allow external jet changes.) "Jetting" a carb refers to changing certain components that meter the amount of gas into the carb to compensate for altitude, air density, air temperature etc. After the event the carb would be returned to NASCAR. After ascertaining that it hadn't been tampered with the carb would go to a trailer full of Holley experts to be rebuilt for use the following week.

Incorporate Tests into Two Day Race Weekends- These three day race weekends are silly and wasteful. They cost the teams a lot of money and they cost the fans a lot of money in motel bills. They cost the team members a ton of time away from home. That nonsense is behind us. Teams will show up on Saturday morning. They will run one practice session. After the Busch race they will qualify. Once the car qualifies it will be driven to a holding pen and kept overnight. No work will be allowed on the car after qualifying. Sunday morning you can check the air pressures then race. Everyone races on Sunday, the winner knocks the big Blue Bottle off his roof and everyone goes home.

This saves the teams lots of money. Less practice (only one session) uses less tires and there's less wear and tear on the engine and other components. Because teams must race the same set up they qualify with all sorts of trick shocks, springs and other parts teams currently use in qualifying are done away with. Sell em on E-bay. What if it rains on Saturday? Hold a half hour practice session Sunday morning prior to the race like some of the open wheel and sports car series do.

Testing is another hideous expense for the teams and another reason team members have to spend so much time away from home. Since we've condensed race weekends down to two days we'll allow testing only on the Friday prior to a Cup race at the same track where the race will be held. Teams with veteran drivers will get to run just five such tests a year on the Friday prior to the race. Teams with rookie drivers will be allowed eight Friday tests. No other testing would be allowed. Goodyear would not provide tires to teams for testing at non-sanctioned tracks. Any team getting caught running an unauthorized test would have their season points total reset to zero. That ought to get the bastards attention.

Better Living By Banning Plates- We're going to eliminate restrictor "pile-up" plates. It's high time. And we're going to do it through the use of a simple gear rule.

Again, this is a little technical. Bear with me. Let's say you have a Hudson Cherrybomb GT Scenicoupe out in the driveway. It has 3.08 rear gears. Acceleration will be tepid, but the engine will running at a reasonable speed on the highway so you'll get decent gas mileage and the engine will last an eternity. But you're tired of having your neighbor Ricky Racer in his Thunder N Lighting SC kick sand in your face in stop light drag races so you install a set of lower (numerically higher) 4.11 gears in the back of your car. The car will accelerate much faster. At highway speed the engine will be screaming for mercy. You'll use more gas than the International Ford Excursion Club cruise night. And all things being equal under the hood your top speed will be lowered considerably. If your Hudson would run 120 with the 3.08s, your top speed would be down 25% with the 4.11 gears to somewhere around 90 MPH. Oh, you could keep your foot in it but if you run the engine much higher in the RPM range hideous things will happen. Your valves will float. Your push rods will bend. Your rocker arms will crack. Bearings in the bottom end of the engine will spin damaging the crank. You might even launch a rod through the side of the engine. You will be left with an unholy mess under the hood that will cost a fortune to fix. Ricky Racer will laugh at you as he helps push your smoking heap into the driveway. Your wife will probably leave you for him. Your kids will change their last name. Car Craft will cancel your subscription.

Winston Cup tires are 27.5 inches tall. The fourth gear transmission ratio in the manual gearbox of a Cup car is 1:1. Plugging these numbers into a mind-numbingly complex formula that involves radius, feet per minute, feet per mile, pi, and all sorts of other nonsense I calculate that with 4.27 rear end gears a Cup car would be turning 9400 RPM at 180 MPH. (Of course I cheated shamelessly and used an on-line calculator to get that number.) That's cool. 180 is about as fast as we want these cars to go at Talladega or Daytona. 9400 is about the most RPM engines can currently sustain for 500 miles. (And remember we're using that 600 CFM carb to help limit RPM.) Oh, you can push it a little higher to make a pass, but you do that too often and the engine won't survive. If teams insist on being pests and developing engines that will crank higher than that, we'll have to mandate RPM limiters in the ignition box. Maybe we'll up the mandatory gear ratio up to 4.33:1 just to allow for tire growth. No more plates and the cars are running at such a speed they shouldn't get airborne and fly into the crowd which is the whole logic behind those silly plates. It's such a simple solution if NASCAR won't implement I demand to see a CAT scan to ensure Brian France's brain is working.

Change the Two Road Course Races to Exhibition Events- Yeah, I always need to toss one idea out there to tick some folks off. I know there are road course fans just as I know there are Britney Spears fans out there. I just can't understand why in either instance. Maybe it's the curves? Anyway currently teams spends millions of dollars on plate car programs for four races. (But I just solved that problem and all the team owners are going to send me ten percent of their savings so I can finally open the Pennsylvania Muscle Car Museum as Curator and Test Pilot.) They are also spending too much money for two road course races. The big teams actually have separate cars for the Glen and Sonoma. That's ridiculous. But I'm going to leave those two dates on the schedule. The two road course races just won't award points so teams that choose to can stay home and give their employees a weekend off. Logic tells me there's enough sponsors with drivers who run well at the road courses that those sponsors will insist their boys show up. And we can fill out the field with road course specialists in one race deals. That should be enough to draw the TV networks to the races so folks like me can stay home and not watch the two road course races on our weekends off.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2004

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