Tomorrow Land

A year ago the NASCAR garage area was in a snit about the "Car of Tomorrow." Drivers hated it, team owners didn't see the need to add increase costs to their operations, the media questioned its viability and many fans just thought the new design was plain ugly.

But here we are, only 12 months later and the world has suddenly taken a shine to the COT.

After this week's final dress rehearsal for the machine at Bristol, most everyone was now singing its praises.

"Overall, I think the car is a resounding success for all the teams and for the way it’s going to put on a good race when we come back here next month," said Kurt Busch after the Bristol workout.

Carl Edwards echoed his comments.

"It’s kind of fun to drive," Edwards said. "It’s fun everywhere for me, except for the center of the corner where it won’t turn, but it’s gonna be a great race."

The guys who write the checks to put these cars on track have also seen the light.

"I’ve said it to a number of people," said Roger Penske. "I think what it’s going to do is it’s going to take some cost out. Obviously there’s a cost of developing. We were able to test that car for three or four days at a short track, take the car to Daytona and run 191 mph. When NASCAR gets the rules just right, we’re going to see a safer car and one that we can take to multiple types of circuits. You walk around and see the cars we have, hopefully we can reduce that by 50 percent."

That's a pretty big turnaround from the ownership side, who initially bemoaned the fact that they'd have to fork over huge amounts of money to develop a brand new NEXTEL Cup machine from the ground up.

But the long-term benefit of essentially having one-type of car that can race at the variety of tracks on the schedule has most of the owners now on the positive side of the fence.

Holding costs was one initiative behind the concept, but increasing safety was another. And on that front, everyone feels NASCAR has taken a step forward.

"The first thing about it is the car is safer," said Kevin Harvick. "Whatever it is after that is a bonus. The drivers have more room inside. There's a lot of things built into the car to absorb energy when they hit the wall."

But even with the advances in safety and overall cost reduction, the bottom line questions that remains is whether the COT will make for better racing.

After Sunday's droning Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, the need for side-by-side racing and increased competition is maybe the most important on NASCAR's plate.

Unless that becomes a regular part of every Sunday, the "Car of Tomorrow" will be yesterday's news in a hurry.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2007

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