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Random Lugnuts: Danica, Spoilers and 2010

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Danica Patrick, Stock Car Racing 2010
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Random Lugnuts: Danica, Spoilers and 2010

Bill Crittenden
January 12, 2010

Tech Inspection

So NASCAR is considering dumping the rear wing in favor of an old-style spoiler.  This would be a great move for safety, as I think the wing, when airflow was reversed by a car spun backwards, was a major factor in Ryan Newman's flip-over crash at Talladega last fall.  It would also aid safety in allowing better view through the back window.  Drivers could see more out of their rear-view mirrors, driver-to-driver communication would be improved as it would allow allow more use of hand signals, and drivers in a pack could see through the windows of car right in front of them, which can help avoid accidents.

It would also be a popular move with the fans, who never got used to an accessory that looked like something out of a Fast and Furious movie.  The best I've heard from fans are from those that are just okay with it, I've heard a lot of people hate it and nobody I've talked to loves the way it looks on the car.

All the same, I don't think NASCAR should change back so quickly.  Not yet, anyway.  Daytona is just over a month away, and then the race dates roll on about once every 7 days.  Even if NASCAR makes the decision to change today, that doesn't give sponsors much time at all to refilm commercials, or to redesign and reprint advertising materials.  In an economy like this, annoying your sponsors is not a smart move.

In addition to the sponsors, there are the merchandise companies which make NASCAR, the teams, and the drivers a lot of money through licensing fees.  A large quantity of stuff that has to take the slow boat from China has to be manufactured in advance of the season, and quite possibly is already on its way here if not already warehoused in the States.  A lot of merchandise that will feature cars with wings on them, not spoilers.  A lot of merchandise that could become all but unsellable with the already unpopular and now obsolete (and inaccurate, for those that care about details on their die cast) wing on them.  Die-cast cars, t-shirts, flags, pretty much anything that depicts the 2010 cars with wings on them would be a hard sell when the cars are running around the track with spoilers on them.  All sorts of companies would take a hit because of this, and at a time when they might not be able to absorb the costs.

Should NASCAR make the change?  Heck yes!  They should announce that they're going to switch to spoilers starting with the 2011 Daytona 500.

Driver Introductions

I've mentioned how I've felt about Danica Patrick trying NASCAR before, and I didn't think her attitude would be a great help in the transition.  A few nights ago I saw a TV segment on Patrick's ARCA test, and it's hard to believe that the woman on TV was the same driver who pushed Dan Wheldon and tried to start a fight with Milka Duno.  She seems, well, humble.  Who knows if or how long it will last, but the longer it does the better chance she has of making a career of stock cars.  Remember when Kyle Busch was new, and he pretty much pissed off everybody he could?  Even Tony Stewart, a guy who can appreciate aggressive driving if there ever was one, was not pleased with Kyle's stunts.  I think if Danica pulls her old crap about deserving the same respect as anyone else in the field (really? how many races/championships/Indy 500s did you win?), especially as a rookie or second-year part-time driver, she won't feel very welcome any more.

The real test of her personality and her patience is when someone gives her the ol' bump-n-run, something she's never had to deal with in open-wheel cars.  That should be interesting.  I sure am glad Kyle Busch races Nationwide, there's nothing like a trial by fire to test a rookie driver.

Tech Inspection II

Remember science fiction of old?  Remember all those "Car of the Future" concepts and displays and stories?  It seemed they all picked the years 2000, 2010 or 2020 to show a future year that was still within the lifetimes of the people watching or reading.

Well, the milestone year 2010 is here.  Robots are building our cars, but they still don't fly and aren't powered by jet engines or nuclear reactors.  NASCAR is still going fast and turning left, and still doing so on carburetor power.  I think it's kinda cool to keep the old-school stuff going, and obviously NASCAR race cars don't need any more power if they're using restrictor plates.  It also looks like the sport's top level will be returning to the spoilers of years past.  It leaves me wondering, at what point does the entire concept of stock car racing become a retro thing?  Or will NASCAR embrace technology and we'll see a much different car in 2020?

My guess is that it'll be more of the same, especially for a form of motorsport that would rather sell itself on history than technology.

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