NASCAR: Will Danica Patrick and Stewart Turn It Around in 2016?

Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart

The crew chiefs in NASCAR have begun to rival the drivers when it comes to silly season rumors, but unlike F1, you tend to know earlier who the crew chiefs will be. Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick have brought in new crew chiefs for their respective cars.

Danica:

Patrick, who brings a whack of cash to the SHR organization is often vilified. On the other hand, there seems to be a reason as she changes crew and chiefs like red lights in Shanghai. She’s hard to work with is what most of my sources say. My sources who were close to her at one point tell me it’s the IndyCar effect: Most of the IndyCar drivers are used to working with engineers rather than old school crew chiefs.

Patrick has seemingly developed the attitude of the Diva. It’s a common occurrence in open-wheel: ‘It’s the car, not me.’ That’s something the drivers in IndyCar can get away with for only so long as everything they do in their cars is captured on software, so you can run, but you can’t hide from the dreaded software. It tells all.

Her former crew chief, Daniel Knost is heading for a new position in the SHR camp as manager of vehicle dynamics, Knost will oversee a number of the organization’s technical efforts, with a specific focus on track simulation and racecar performance.

The 36-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, has been a crew chief at SHR for two years, spending 2014 with the #41 team of Kurt Busch and 2015 with the #10 team of Patrick.

Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick

Knost joined SHR in 2008 when it was Haas-CNC Racing after earning Master of Science and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Childers remains as crew chief for the #4 team of Harvick and Tony Gibson remains as crew chief for the #41 team of Busch.

Don’t expect the dynamics to change as Patrick has a reputation for being the “Alonso” of the Cup Series. All one has to do is listen to her radio in snapshots from all of the races and you begin to see where the difficulty lies.

Maybe Billy Scott, the replacement for Knost, will have a better experience as the problem seems to lie in the chemistry department. Knost joined SHR in 2008 when it was Haas-CNC Racing after earning Master of Science and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

The 38-year-old from Land O’ Lakes, Florida, comes to SHR from Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) where since 2014 he was the crew chief for the No. 55 team.

Stewart:

It had to be a very difficult season for Stewart with injuries and legal battles all the while trying to remain relevant as a team owner. It was a hard road for Stewart who unlike Patrick blames himself and not the car. Stewart has always been a driver who would look from within to seek the answers as opposed to calling the car out.

That’s a rare quality, how many drivers do you know who would say: ‘It’s my fault, not the car’. It’s very rare in all types of motor racing, but an admirable quality nonetheless.

Look for Stewart to try and capitalize on the 2016 package which should see the cars as tough to handle given the new low-downforce rules. However Stewart has to buckle down and try and develop the chemistry with his new crew chief, Michael Burgarwicz.

Michael Bugarewicz has been promoted from race engineer on the #4 team to crew chief for the #14 team of Tony Stewart. The 33-year-old from Lehighton, Pennsylvania, replaces Chad Johnston, who has left SHR to pursue a new opportunity. Bugarewicz joined SHR in 2014 where in his role as race engineer, he helped Kevin Harvick secure his first Sprint Cup championship.

You have to wonder how Kevin Harvick let him go, but Tony has the final say and seems to know what he’s doing. Uncle Gene, not withstanding.

There’s not much to say about Tony Stewart except one has to hope that he can emulate Jeff Gordon’s retirement year. If the 2016 low-downforce cars suit him, he will be a factor for the Chase. Well, if the Chase does have an eraser change before Daytona.

Let’s hope the best for Tony as the, hopefully, looser cars will suit his driving style.

He needs a spark and a good performance to motivate him as the 2015 season took a toll on Smoke.

But Hey, Smoke rises-right?

 

 

 

 

 

Harvick Will Be The Dominant Driver At Phoenix

Gordon's teammates will be playing chess at Phoenix in order to limit the competition for Gordon at Homestead.

Gordon’s teammates will be playing chess at Phoenix in order to limit the competition for Gordon at Homestead.

With this weekend’s NASCAR race at Phoenix looming four drivers will be out of the game and four will be in, Count on Kevin Harvick to be one of the drivers who advance to Homestead for the finale’.

Harvick has had one of those seasons that had the usual ebb and flow we’ve come to expect from top drivers and teams. Periods of excellence that move to mediocre results and then come back with a vengeance aren’t uncommon for those who are in the elite club. The trick is when to peak.

Kevin Harvick seems to be more than at home in Phoenix having won 5 consecutive races at the desert track as well as 8 wins overall. He’s the favorite to win again ensuring his Homestead spot for the chance at his second Cup championship.

There are no more chances, this race is it. Jeff Gordon is ready to go, having won Darlington. The top four drivers in points are: Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr, who seems to many to be an outlier.

One thing is certain the games will be in play at Phoenix with virtually all 7eligible drivers getting no help from their teammates and Hendrick rallying it’s team to block as many strong contenders as it can from being a threat to Jeff Gordon’s chances at Homestead.

Edwards should be the favorite to transfer to the big show after Phoenix.

Edwards should be the favorite to transfer to the big show after Phoenix.

We were witness to that type of chess play when Jimmie Johnson so skillfully and stealthily ran down a dominant Brad Keselowski to take away a guaranteed spot for the Penske driver as well as further keep Joey Logano at bay.

That could actually play into Martin Truex, Jr’s hands, though the cards aren’t in his favor as his record at Phoenix are far from stellar and Furniture Row is a one car team.

When it’s all said and done, the money seems to point to Gordon, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards making the big show in South Florida.

Edwards has two wins at Phoenix and they are within the last few years rather than a decade old, so count him as a real threat to knock Truex out of the picture.

My picks going into Homestead: Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards. Not a stretch, right?

My real hope is that Gordon goes out as a Champion and we can close the books on these cars with too much down force.

2016 is pivotal point for not only NASCAR but IndyCar and Formula One as well. It can’t come too soon for me.

NASCAR: Expect Jimmie Johnson To Come Alive In The Chase

Lowes extends Johnson's contract through 2017.

Lowes extends Johnson’s contract through 2017.

It’s a difficult thing to watch what was once a powerhouse NASCAR team slowly and painfully slip into obscurity. That team is Roush Racing. Many have started to forecast, with great vitriol at times, the same fate for Hendrick and Jimmie Johnson. Don’t make that mistake.

Jimmie Johnson doesn’t have 6 Championships because NASCAR engineered it. They didn’t throw false cautions to benefit Johnson or anyone else, Johnson and Chad Knaus took the same equipment and tools as his teammates and earned 6 Championships.

Sitting at the top of the charts for the 16 drivers who made it into the Chase is Johnson. Has he been the meteor of late like Kyle Busch? No. But the Hendrick organization knows where they stand, knows who is going to create the right strategy for the Chase and let them run with it.

After missing four months due to injury, Kyle Busch may now be in the right position to win his first title.

After missing four months due to injury, Kyle Busch may now be in the right position to win his first title.

It may not be such a coincidence that Johnson re-signed an extension on his contract through 2017 and just announced it, right after the Chase was set. Knaus’ extension runs through 2018. Check off the box that has ‘pressure on contract’.

Tom Lamb, the Chief Marketing Officer for Lowes said:

“Lowe’s has a longstanding history with NASCAR and knows its fans are some of the most loyal in all of sports,” said Tom Lamb, chief marketing officer of Lowe’s. “Our partnership with Jimmie and Hendrick Motorsports has been an amazing ride as we chase history, and more than 265,000 Lowe’s employees are proud to be part of such a legacy.”

That sounds like corporate word-speak, but having met, at length, with the CEO of Lowes prior to their NASCAR involvement, it’s genuine. This company want’s to win. They have and will again.

On the other side of the street, Jeff Gordon’s woes are regrettable, but time marches on and he may very well leave the sport with perhaps one win in 2015. His overall team just hasn’t been able to convert qualifying speeds into a start to finish racing strategy that has worked for him. He’s a deserving Champion but his run in the sport may be over.

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are fully aware of what they face, having run a season under these rules. They won’t make the same mistakes they did last year. That’s not good news for Kevin Harvick, but no news to Kyle Busch. He could care less. Joe Gibbs and company will keep him in mission and on course to defeat all comers.

Harvick will be a contender from the first race in Chicagoland.

Harvick will be a contender from the first race in Chicagoland.

The real fight, in my opinion will be between Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. It’s possible that Joey Logano may mix it up as well as Keselowski, but I don’t see the strength at Penske that I do with Hendrick and JGR.

Joe Gibbs Racing miraculously came to life, seemingly when Kyle Busch returned to his seat after missing four months of racing. Let that soak in: Four months. He now sits second and has four wins.

These teams have different strategies that they employ during the Chase format and each of the drivers I believe will be fighting for that Championship all have top teams backing them on creating that strategy, which is always unfolding and evolving as the Chase narrows down it’s competitors.

The one thing that the fans can be sure of is that Hendrick want’s the mojo that JGR has found and Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing will have an appropriate strategy for each and every one of the remaining races complete with every scenario and response they can think of, it’s a ‘War Room’ mentality.

Will Johnson take another title? Who knows, this is auto racing where anything can and usually does happen.

One can only hope that the 16 drivers that are going for that Cup give us, the fans, the show we want to see and that NASCAR needs us to see.

It’s a dog eat dog world and these are the big dogs, no one is going to run away with this one.

 

 

 

 

 

NASCAR, Give Us More Road Racing

Kyle Busch and Wife Samantha after his Sonoma road course win.

Kyle Busch and Wife Samantha after his Sonoma road course win.

It strikes me as odd that more road courses didn’t work their way into the minds of NASCAR fans in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. They were wild and rapidly changing times. However, to an American audience, for which NASCAR had built itself, the idea of being up close as the cars ran an oval was more appealing.

Times have changed. Dramatically.

The first live broadcast of a NASCAR race was the infamous 1979 Daytona 500 starring Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers whose crazy leg flailing and wild air punches ushered in the television era of NASCAR.

Road racing was part of NASCAR long before most of the present day fans were born, but not a big part. California was the main player as the west coast demographic seemed to take to the big thundering cars turning right and left.

Big Bill France had often said that in order to have a healthy NASCAR that they needed road racing to be healthy as well. Road racing is where NASCAR actually started. Let’s face it, Junior Johnson didn’t just turn left on his way to deliver his spiritual goods.

Road racing is reviled by many NASCAR fans as not being pure enough and too hard to watch, at track. Television changed that as now one could watch the action from anywhere on the course, not just the grandstands.

The fight that put NASCAR on the map. Cale Yarborough and the Allison Brothers. NASCAR's first full length television broadcast.

The fight that put NASCAR on the map. Cale Yarborough and the Allison Brothers. NASCAR’s first full length television broadcast.

Part and parcel to the allure of road racing is just that. You can’t see the whole track so you have to walk around the facility to take in the whole experience. That’s what road racing is, a complete experience where people, not just fans, are in constant motion.

According to Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR EVP, “It is something that is being considered maybe more so for a longer term basis. Obviously, the schedule is full at this point but we’ve really evolved and when you look at the road course action, it’s almost on par with short tracks.

These cars at the end of a race really look like they’ve been beat up and guys are getting out there and really getting after it to where I think we’re putting on the best road racing in the world. It used to be where you used to bring in three to four ringers and they would finish in the top 10. Now our guys are consistently finishing up front and have proven to be the best in the world. So we really like the progress that’s been made. It’s certainly exciting. We share in the fans’ excitement, for sure. But the teams also like the ability to have those two opportunities to win a race and achieve that spot in the Chase.”

Whatever the history, whatever the reason, the modern NASCAR road races are as brutal and as fender banging as was Bristol. Pre-fix-it Bristol.

When you tune into a NASCAR road race, you expect to see the fender rubs, the ‘bump and run’ or ‘chrome horn’ as it’s sometimes called, being applied with joy by any driver close enough to the driver in front of him/her to execute said ‘chrome horn’.

It still seems to be somewhat of a novelty to the rank and file NASCAR fan, but it is gaining in popularity as a direct result of just how physical these drivers are with cars that won’t turn, won’t brake and slide around with 700 HP pushing them.

That sounds pretty cool to me rather than watching cars go around in a circle for 500 miles.

I’ve had several drivers, who are primarily road racers, tell me just how hard oval track racing really is. I believe them. Merely watching the backend of these cars slide around at 190 MPH is an art form.

On the other hand, if you are going to tell the world that NASCAR drivers are the best in the world, as O’Donnell claims, you have to show them and not having a road race in the Chase playoff is not the way to do it.

Arguably the Chase should represent the most watched races of the season. The global economy, alternate leisure activities and life compressing in on you be damned. This should be when most people are excited to see what’s going to happen from race to race.

2015 has been a strange year in many ways across the globe, so no one really knows what the Chase will look like from a fan perspective. However, this should be the year that a new road course is brought onto the 2016 schedule. It probably won’t be, despite every road race, so far, has been a cliffhanger, particularly with the green/white checker in play.

I hope that road racing will find it’s way into the NASCAR mindset soon as the world simply keeps changing and with great speed.

NASCAR needs something as the viewing and leisure time habits of consumers across the world are changing even faster than your 401K balance.

Perhaps two more road courses and at least one in the Chase may bring viewers that NASCAR wouldn’t normally attract.

 

 

NASCAR at Michigan May Be Very Different From The Past

I would not be surprised to see a lot of car failures this weekend, specific to heat relation as it pertains to the aero package and its kind of cause and effects.

I would not be surprised to see a lot of car failures this weekend, specific to heat relation as it pertains to the aero package and its kind of cause and effects.

NASCAR is now moving into the ‘who gets in and gets knocked out’ territory with very few races left to make the coveted Chase. Each and every race from this point forward will tell a story, whether that story is Ford being on a back-foot, save Penske, or the changes being made involving the draft, drag and down-force.

Michigan is getting more play than I’ve seen in years due to the higher rear spoilers along with their forward facing lip, known as a wickerbill. I simply can’t recall a time when both the drivers and manufacturers were talking about these changes as much as they are now.

There’s a reason: The teams and drivers don’t really know what to expect.

Are the cars going to draft to the fans expectations or washout in the corners due to the heat that Michigan is expecting.

Brad Keselowski, when asked about the heat factor, replied: “I think the heat is gonna be even worse this weekend. There’s a large amount of concern across both the teams and drivers, really all members, for this rules package coming up to Michigan specific to the fact that even though the track is wider and bigger, the significance of the draft is gonna be even more important, so you’re gonna have to stay in line as much as possible.

Chad Knaus inspects the larger rear spoiler and forward lip on the #48 car.

Chad Knaus inspects the larger rear spoiler and forward lip on the #48 car.

As you stay in line the car gets less and less air because that’s essentially how the draft works and the speeds at Michigan are higher than they are at Indianapolis, which means the parts, specifically the drivetrain are gonna be even hotter. I know the team is very, very concerned about the drivetrain, everything from the engine all the way back to the axles because they’re really not made for these temperatures.

I would not be surprised to see a lot of car failures this weekend, specific to heat relation as it pertains to the aero package and its kind of cause and effects. And inside the car I would not be surprised to see a lot of hot and worn out drivers after the race.”

With more heat the engines don’t make the most horsepower and that means carrying as much speed through the corners as possible while hoping the down-force takes over to keep the car planted.

The Michigan track has, in the past, been a multi-groove surface that the Cup cars could take advantage of, maybe not so much this weekend. The cars need to get out of the draft to employ the down-force when approaching a corner.

Keselowski was also asked whether the cars would handle differently than they had at Indianapolis: ” I don’t expect it to be much different as far as the way the cars handle behind each other. Perhaps the only difference could be between the two tracks is Michigan has a much wider groove in theory and the potential to run different lanes in the corners.

The way the aerodynamics work specific to this high draft package certainly you want to be in line down the straightaway to get the maximum effect of the loss of drag, but you kind of want to be staggered in the corners to try to keep your down-force in the corner when you need it to keep the car going through the corners as fast as possible.”

Will the racing be ‘racier’ at Michigan than it has been in the past? We think so. If it’s hot, slick and unbearable in the cars you’re bound to have some things go right and the potential of a whole lot of things going wrong.

The bottom line is it’s the same for everyone, but someone has to stick their neck out if they hope to make or displace someone for the Chase berths that are in bubble territory.

It should be an interesting weekend, especially for the auto manufacturers.

Kyle Busch: More Than Mature Enough to be Champion

With five races to go, Busch will crack the top 30 and then some.

With five races to go, Busch will crack the top 30 and then some.

It never ceases to amaze me that NASCAR racing fans want more action, more risk takers and more competition but scream to high heaven when someone like Kyle Busch actually lives by those tenets.

The Pocono race was, at it’s finish, dramatic to be sure. Crew chiefs were tapping wildly on their computers to measure just how much room they had in fuel mileage to make the end of the race, everyone was on the edge of their seats as Logano ran out of fuel. Busch swung for the fences and came up short of a win, but not without gaining points.

Kyle Busch fans watched in horror as one half a lap before the checkered flag, while leading, he ran out of gas. Why? I say why not?

Busch might have backed down and finished 13th or above and locked into the Chase, but he didn’t. Were his crew chief and spotters not hard enough on him to save fuel? Perhaps not, but the sky is not falling for Kyle Busch to grab a berth in the playoffs.

Some writers believe he’s not mature enough to take a Championship. That’s nonsense. He’s 13 points from the Chase berth with five races to go and the only driver ahead of him for that coveted 30th place are Cole Whitt, David Gilliland and Justin Allgaier.

New wife, new baby, new attitude. Kyle Busch will be a contender for the title.

New wife, new baby, new attitude. Kyle Busch will be a contender for the title.

The 18 team wont repeat that mistake and that’s bad news for everyone else in the field.

Is their anyone out there that thinks Kyle Busch can’t overcome these drivers in points, a miniscule 13 points, before Richmond? If so, you need to put the crack pipe down and slowly step away.

When asked if he was disappointed, he calmly stated: : “Yeah, that was it. I didn’t know we were that close. Normally when we’re close or that close I get harped on pretty hard to save fuel. They were just telling me to save just to not put too much pressure on the car and everything else. Man, that’s a bummer. I wish I would’ve saved a little more there that last run. I wish I would’ve known that the 22 (Joey Logano) was that far away from making it. He was way far away from making it. Man, that was just a shame that we weren’t able to get it done there.”

Doesn’t sound like a rookie or desperate man to me, he sounds like a confident driver who takes chances. Isn’t that what all of you have been screaming to see? Imagine that, a professional racing driver taking chances.

He added: “We got greedy, I don’t know how greedy but that’s the position we’re in. If it came down to other things that we haven’t had the success that we’ve had here lately we would’ve had to have pitted and just made the opportunity of it and made the best finish that we could. But, we went for broke today and come up a little bit short so can’t fault the team.”

Is Kyle Busch worried? Hell no. He knows what he’s capable of achieving. A close friend, Bill Marlowe, NASCAR expert and former engineer for some of NASCAR’s greats put it bluntly: “ There are only a few “A” rated drivers out there, but to me, only three real wheelman. They’re Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.”

You fans ask for excitement, tough drivers and hard racing.

You have it in Kyle Busch, who may very well be the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.

 

 

 

 

NASCAR: LESS Down-force, Not More

 Brian France: "There were a lot of things we liked, definitely an improvement on the races that have happened at Kentucky."

Brian France: “There were a lot of things we liked, definitely an improvement on the races that have happened at Kentucky.”

After the Kentucky race, which would rank as one of the better oval track races I’ve seen in a while, NASCAR want’s to continue tinkering with the new aero package, particularly down-force.

The new package seems to be heading for a track specific set of parameters, although in this writers opinion, it doesn’t need it. Goodyear tires should continue their track to track compounds, but the answer seems simpler than changing the aero packages from track to track.

Remove more down-force, albeit one step at a time and alter downforce from style of track to track and not tailor to each track.

Brian France stated shortly after the Kentucky race: “What we’re really looking for is how tight is the racing?” France said. “How many lead changes are there? How much passing through the field is going on? How many more teams are competitive by a given package? What accomplishes those goals the best?

Then, regarding other tracks, specifically Indy, he went on to say: We’re going to try some things coming up here at Indy (with a high-drag package). I’ll tell you what we didn’t see that we would like to see more of is more drafting. We didn’t see as much of that as we would have liked and more pack racing. You saw that on the restarts but not quite as much (as we’d prefer). There were a lot of things we liked, definitely an improvement on the races that have happened at Kentucky.”

Jimmie Johnson testing the packers earlier this year.

Jimmie Johnson testing the packers earlier this year.

So Kentucky is one of the teaser ponies for the future adjustments that NASCAR may make to the new rules. Fine.

What about the idea of adding down-force for the Indy race? Why would you want to go for more down-force, which does cause the cars to run closer, but also makes it far more difficult to initiate and execute a pass.

Here’s a thought:

Have an aero package for short tracks, a specific package for the 1.5 mile races and, of course, the restrictor plate races would stay the same. Each track does not need a tailor made set of rules, it can be more general than is the trial balloon that Mr. France is floating in the quotes above.

Carl Edwards has championed the less down-force issue now for quite some time and his argument has proven itself out, at least at Kentucky.

However, don’t expect these packages to fully implement in 2015. France has stated that select races are being used as a testing bed for where they will ultimately go with these changes and how track specific they may become.

He stated: “We’re going to continue to do that provided we don’t break the bank for the team owners as we go about it,” France told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Our goal, beyond safe racing, which is our first goal, is that close, tight racing where more teams have a shot to win if their talents and hard work take them there.”

NASCAR has stated that they will use the same rules packe at the September 6th race at Darlington. The difference will be that Goodyear will provide a specific tire for that package as well as the track, something they didn’t do at Kentucky.

That is the goal of all motorsports series, to provide close competitive racing.

I know that the details count, but it truly seems a simpler process than we are hearing.

NASCAR Competition Grows Despite the Uneducated Criticisms

SHR has shown that it's a true player in the NASCAR game. The competition is better now than at any other time in sport's history.

SHR has shown that it’s a true player in the NASCAR game. The competition is better now than at any other time in sport’s history.

American racing, both NASCAR and IndyCar may very well be the best on the planet right now. NASCAR anyone in the top 20 have a shot at winning and, so far, in 15 races there have been 10 different winners. In IndyCar, there have ben 8 race winners in 11 races.

(I say 15 due to the fact that the Quicken Loans 400 has been rain delayed more than an outdoor electrician’s convention in South Florida during a storm. It has now been called giving Kurt Busch his second win of the year.)

Compare this to Formula One with 3 winners in 7 races, which may seem competitive but is really among two teams, Ferrari and Mercedes. 2015 will be a major Mercedes rout. Ferrari won’t catch up this year. Scratch the word competitive from F1 this year.

What this means is that, despite the ludicrous cries of the villagers, NASCAR is more competitive than it’s ever been. It is poised to become even more competitive at Kentucky where more rules changes, so it’s being touted, come into effect. Namely less down-force.

When you put more control back into the drivers hands you naturally discover who can drive a racing car at this high level. So far, they seem to be doing a great job of mixing it up just fine. On the other hand, the drivers want more.

According to Carl Edwards, a long-time proponent of less down-force: “I’d be in favor of anything that makes the cars able to race around each other and to put more of the speed into the drivers hands,” Edwards said. “I know NASCAR is all for the same thing. Everybody wants this thing to be the best possible show for the fans and I don’t think NASCAR is scared to make changes. 

Carl Edwards has long been a proponent of removing downforce on the Cup cars to [put more control in the drivers hands.

Carl Edwards has long been a proponent of removing downforce on the Cup cars to [put more control in the drivers hands.

“I think it’s really cool that they’ve been talking with the drivers more, they’ve been more involved with it and without knowing really the details, I think we’re heading in the right direction. I have a sense that there will be some neat things coming.”

What more do the NASCAR fans want? The cars leaping through fiery hoops on the straights? Humpy wheeler would surely approve, but anything other than bringing the cars back down to the wheelman’s control is not in NASCAR’s long-term interest.

The more competitive the better. NASCAR needs to stand out among the myriad of leisure decisions American sports fans have at their disposal. So far, the general press has been kind to the sport giving it it’s due.

The one thing that has everyone nervous at the moment is NASCAR floating another balloon revealing the possibility of tailoring the aerodynamics to each individual racing track. One only hopes that they give the lower down-force option a solid chance.

Rushing something that has an obvious and definite complexity to it is tantamount to the recent legislative shenanigans of our esteemed Congress.

I sincerely hope that NASCAR implements the changes at Kentucky, takes stock over the next few races on different style tracks and then makes a decision on tailored aerodynamics.

The last thing we want to see is a repeat of IndyCar’s first few races with Frankenstein add-ons. This is NASCAR and it should remain as simple as possible.

That is what breeds competition, that’s what shows whose got what.

NASCAR and VW: “Ze Germans” May Show up to the Party

France is once again floating the new foreign manufacturer balloon.

France is once again floating the new foreign manufacturer balloon.

It’s been quite a while since we’ve heard NASCAR talk openly about other manufacturers entering the sport, 2009 to put a date on it, most likely due to no one expressing interest. Now, Brian France is weaving this prospect of new blood coming into what is truly American style auto racing, IndyCar notwithstanding.

France has begun to integrate this possibility into his new narrative, just before the 2016 rule changes that are being bandied about. Why now, after a very long time of rumors of Volkswagen, Dodges return, Honda and Nissan?

Either France sees a hole in the global anti-American sentiment that NASCAR isn’t real racing or one of the foreign manufacturers has come to the realization that despite China’s braggadocios’ display of new found wealth, it doesn’t have the staying power to overcome sales in America.

You can strike Honda right now as their return to Formula One is proving to be much harder than they calculated, particularly with the absurd complexity of the new F1 ‘Power-Units’. If you didn’t get the memo, F1 uses ‘Power-units’, no longer engines. So who does that leave to burn up Daytona’s phone lines? Not many.

Nissan and Renault's Carlos Goshn has no apparent interest in NASCAR..

Nissan and Renault’s Carlos Goshn has no apparent interest in NASCAR..

Whether NASCAR makes it easy or difficult for them to participate isn’t really the issue. Do any of them really want to make that investment? According to France’s statements on Sirius radio: . “We’re generally open to figuring out how to make a new manufacturer work in NASCAR,” he said. “We have those discussions. Obviously, it’s complicated how a manufacturer might enter the sport. It goes back to the original points.

They want to make sure they have a fair and balanced playing field. If they line up talent, that they can have a shot to compete and do well. … Every single thing, and this is the beauty of NASCAR, leads back to the same path: How do we make sure that, as a sanctioning body, we lay out a plan and path where drivers, teams, manufacturers and sponsors all feel they can come into NASCAR if they compete hard and their talent allows them to do reasonably well? That’s an ongoing mission and serves everybody well when we get it right. That’s our mission.”

The VW Passat makes the most sense of any of the possible phone calls that France claims to have 'fielded'.

The VW Passat makes the most sense of any of the possible phone calls that France claims to have ‘fielded’.

Hyundai, with virtually no experience in auto racing would only do so if it had a compelling reason to build a push-rod V8. It can be done, but even the lessor cost of the push rod engine, it’s still a considerable expense to compete at the level required in NASCAR and it doesn’t make business sense not to have multiple teams to help cover the costs. Hyundai is developing it’s reputation in America as a very strong alternative to Toyota. It can brand elsewhere.

Nissan is involved in motorsports in a very different way, it, or should we say Carlos Goshen, Nissans CEO, doesn’t view NASCAR in a positive light. His world view includes running Renault and is additionally the Chairman of Russian automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ. His Renault company is heavily mulling over taking over an existing Formula One team, Red Bull is the logical choice.

Don’t think the Russians are going to come to NASCAR. Picture WWIII is the grandstands.

It really only leaves a few, the most logical being VW. Yup, there’s that name again. Right now VW is being courted by F1. Will they cave, doubtful. They NEED to have a greater sales record in the U.S. The Japanese are beating them, BMW, Hyundai, Kia, the list goes on.

VW cant rely on it’s other companies, Porsche, Audi or, obviously, Lamborghini. They are deeply entrenched in European and Japanese style road racing. This only leaves the parent company to take up the American challenge.

VW is the 17th best selling car in the U.S. and that’s not a very good number from a company with this much financial horsepower. Why hasn’t VW sold more? Poor marketing, poor automobile offerings for the American market and expense. Have you priced a German car lately? It’s out of proportion for what you get. Priced a well appointed Passat? Not cheap.

On the other hand, the Passat is a great car, is the right size and VW can easily afford to run a NASCAR effort making it U.S. specific. An effort in NASCAR to raise it’s profile.

Let’s face it, NASCAR no longer can use the tagline “Win on Sunday Sell on Monday.” Entering NASCAR is a branding exercise to place the manufacturer in your head. This is exactly what VW needs.

Mazda has almost completely taken control of grassroots racing in America, but creating series just for VW wont work, it has to bring the Passat into the American publics view as a true competitor not just on-track but it has to translate to sales. NASCAR may be the quickest and most cost effective way of doing that.

The problem lies in the “Dodge Effect”. Not enough teams willing to take the plunge with new Chrysler leadership that is constantly distracted by it’s other companies that all are micro-managed by Sergio Marchionni. How many teams would actually entertain the VW brand? Who knows, it depends on what the Germans offer them.

Yes VW builds V8’s but not of the pushrod variety. They face the same challenges as Dodge, who is going to build those engines? Probably a third party, although Porsche or Audi could do exactly that. A pushrod engine isn’t rocket science, although there is quite the case to be made for a pushrod engine over a DOHC engine.

Our bet that this issue has resurfaced because VW is making forays into lifting it’s brand in the U.S. by whatever means necessary.

Will the 2016 rules, if implemented, actually help a new manufacturer in? That’s an unknown, what is know is that VW has all the cash, expertise in engineering and truly a need to be seen and heard by the American buying public.

Despite growing anti-American sentiment in Germany, cash is king and VW may need to spend some to make some.

Our guess is that the “Peoples Car” is on the phone in an effort to live up to it’s name.

 

 

 

Jimmie Johnson or Harvick Will Win The 2015 Cup Title

These two drivers have everything it takes to go head to head in the Chase.

These two drivers have everything it takes to go head to head in the Chase.

So Jimmie Johnson nails his fourth win of the year and everyone hates him, and lets face it, people hate others for a myriad of reasons. In this case it’s because he wins races.

What has been missed is the fact that this season in Sprint Cup has become unbelievably competitive. They are the same cast of characters that have provided the entertainment for the past few seasons.

There’s a reason for that. They are the best drivers in Cup and they drive for the best teams. Period. When you have a series where the teams run virtually the same equipment it comes down to two things putting that car in the winners circle, talent and money.

That could be said about any form of motorsport, but in Sprint Cup it’s a spec series, which makes it harder to win. No detail can be missed and every little trick they can think of has to be tried.

Johnson appears to have a handle on psychologically running block on his competition as the Chase looms later this season. I don’t care who you are, when drivers of this caliber see someone win four races and that driver has 6 Cup Championships, it gets inside your head. Harvick would be the one driver that it probably excites.

Ultimately I believe that’s who this Chase will come down to, Johnson and Harvick. I could be wrong, it is auto racing where anything can happen, but Harvick is still atop the points heap and remains consistent all the while Johnson creeps up in the standings.

Johnson fourth win this season is propelling him to the top of the standings along with Harvick.

Johnson fourth win this season is propelling him to the top of the standings along with Harvick.

Only four races remain until the ‘Race to the Chase’ begins and no one on the horizon appears to have quite the tiny little edge that these two drivers have. Johnson and his team know how to recover from bad weekends and Harvick knows how to play this game.

The racing in Cup has never been better but you can’t deny that these two drivers have the edge, the determination, the strategies and the sheer talent to drive at the limit for extended periods of time.

The fans all have their favorites but you have to consider that these two drivers, even at this still early stage, have the ability to overcome whatever is thrown at them, accusations of cheating aside.

Of course, in Sprint Cup, you never know what might happen, but history can be telling. Johnson and Harvick both know that when the points are reset, so are they. Their teams have been planning for it and will have a completely different strategy for the actual Chase than they did getting to it.

Stewart Haas have two drivers all but locked in, that is where the main team efforts will go. Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick with, perhaps, a little more influence on Harvick, It won’t be Tony Stewart or Danica Patrick.

Johnson’s team has always been on another planet when it comes down to the big fight and they learned long ago that they are the top Hendrick team. They will spare no expense or many nights using their brain-trust to execute every possible scenario to win this Championship.

Johnson wants that 7th title and Harvick now makes Pavlov’s Dogs look like a drooling Pomeranian.

Whoever wins the title this season it will have been well deserved, hopefully a clean and entertaining victory.

If I were a betting man, however, I would have to say Johnson will take the honor. Or maybe Harvick?

 

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