Opinion: A Test of Patience

Charlotte Motor Speedway

There are lots of expectations and pressure on NASCAR to make the racing better after gathering data from next week’s Charlotte Motor Speedway test. (Photo: Getty Images)


There are lots of expectations and pressure on NASCAR to make the racing better after next week’s Charlotte Motor Speedway test.

But my guess is that there will be a lot of disappointed people in the aftermath.

Kudos to NASCAR for recognizing the fact that the on-track product, particularly on mile-and-a-half tracks, could use some work.  But it’s highly unlikely anything that comes out of the Dec. 9 session at CMS will automatically make the racing better in 2014.

The sanctioning body has looked at a number of items since teams tested in Charlotte a little more than a month ago.  It appears that ride height will be modified, but that is more technical in nature than anything and won’t impact actual racing per se.  Several crew chiefs applaud the move to abolish a minimum ride height, allowing more creativity with shocks and springs in a setup.  However, the jury is still out on whether the car’s handling will - in turn - make for better racing.

Spoiler heights, angles and other aerodynamic adjustments are still on the table.  But the prospect of finding a magic formula to cure the finicky proposition of propelling a more-than-3,000-pound stock car through the air at high speeds is still a significant challenge.

Taking away horsepower and lowering speeds is also being given a hard look.  It seems logical that a slower car would handle better and thus allow a driver the opportunity for more control.  The theory is that with added control would come a better chance for cars to race side-by-side, rather than forcing a driver to hold on for dear life as he or she rockets around some corners near the 200 mph mark.

No matter what modifications eventually make their way into the 2014 rules package, there is no guarantee that anything will look different come next season’s races at places like Charlotte, Chicagoland Speedway, Kentucky, Las Vegas or Kansas Speedway.

Drivers still make the final decision on what takes place on the racetrack.  Choosing when to pass, hold back, execute an aggressive charge or bide time before employing whatever strategy necessary to finish as well as possible lies squarely in the hands of the person behind the wheel.  Even with NASCAR’s "100 percent rule," there isn’t a thing the sanctioning body can do to make drivers race a certain way.

There were several moments last season when, at one point in a race, the field was strung out in a single-file parade around the track.  That triggered talk of aero push, dirty air and the inability to execute any kind of pass.

But then, lo and behold in the exact same race at a different juncture and circumstance, there was side-by-side racing and drivers passing each other.

NASCAR can always work to improve the product and it has been an ongoing process since the sport was born in 1949.  But there’s only so much that can be done with the car and many more elements to consider.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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