Feature Story


The Issue of Aeromatching



By Rob Tiongson


Many Winston Cup teams have recently complained about restrictor plate racing. From shocks to aeromatching, there seems to be an elusive answer that still hasn't knocked on the door loud enough to satisfy drivers.

Earlier this year during Daytona Speedweeks, the Chevrolet drivers were very upset with the terrible drag coefficient they had on their newly modeled 2000 Monte Carlos. After the Gatorade Twin 125-mile Qualifying races, it was obvious that the cars were that terrible. The highest finishing position for any of the Twin races came from Dale Earnhardt Jr., in his sample shot at highly competitive racing in Winston Cup.

Duplicate the Chevrolet camp efforts in the previous Speedweeks races and the Daytona 500 was a snoozer. Johnny Benson made that race dramatic in the closing laps and made some sport magazine look silly (and they said he had no chance!) The race belonged to Dale Jarrett, but the storylines of the quest for safer but faster speeds heated up.

Part of the reason in which the races at Talladega and Daytona are not as..... fast as before are due to two objects: a smaller restrictor plate and a new shock rule. When the teams began testing at two of the fastest NASCAR tracks last winter, they were mandated to comply with the mandatory front and back shock settings. If you saw cars in those tracks qualify last year, you saw the car squat down with the back end almost dragging the track. To the race and qualifying sessions, you saw speed. To the drivers, that meant driving their cars as if they were running on a really bumpy road down that interstate. So NASCAR figured if they wanted to make the ride smoother, the shocks would be used as one of the many targets when the teams race at Daytona and Talladega.

Nineteen races into the 2000 season, NASCAR asked some teams to visit Talladega for a test session to possibly make racing at Daytona and Talladega like the good 'ol days. To me, it sort of looks like a give and take situation. Less speed, better safety. More speed, a graveyard of stock cars. To veteran driver Dave Marcis, today's racing isn't like it used to be. During a recent ESPN2 interview, he told Bill Weber that he wishes stock car racing could have cars like they were back in the early 1980s. Cars that were more stock, more equal, and much more up to the driver and team to win. Today's Winston Cup cars are akin to airplanes, because a little damage on the nose or spoiler ruins a win. If that was old school racing, you'd still have a chance to win, even if your car resembles a taxi on the streets of New York City.

It'll be interesting to see what happens if aeromatching does occur. A rumor has the Ford stock car body being the standard template that all drivers will have to use as a model on how to build the possible aerodynamically matched cars. If that were to happen, it would be like watching an IROC race for ten months in a row. That would put racing back into the hands of the driver because the costs would decrease. Who knows, it could make it easier for those of us who might want to make a crack at the speed arenas.


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