Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nationwide Series says "goodbye" to competition, "hello" to mediocrity

In an unprecedented rule change, effective immediately, NASCAR has decided to encourage mediocrity and give a horsepower advantage to Roush-Fenway Racing in the Nationwide Series.

According to discussion on ESPN 2's NASCAR Now, of the engines siezed by NASCAR after the Nationwide race at Chicagoland, July 12, David Reutimann's Toyota showed the highest horsepower production in dynomometer testing, 2 horsepower over the JGR #18. The Roush Fords that were tested followed with a close third and fourth. According to ESPN reporter Marty Smith, the #20 JGR Toyota, which was the reason for the siezure and dynomometer testing of the engines, had the fifth highest hosrepower production in dynamometer testing.

Since the engine used by Toyota is a new engine, while the other manufacturers have been running older engine models in the series, NASCAR evened things down for the non-Toyota teams by implementing a rule change requiring tapered spacers on the Toyota engines. This will take away about sixteen horsepower from the Toyotas, giving the Ford engines roughly a fourteen horsepower advantage over the rest of the field.

NASCAR has said that the new rule would apply to all new engine models regardless of the manufacturer. Toyota is the only manufacturer that has introduced a new engine to the series at this point in time.

This is just the opposite of what we expected. Racing has always been about advancing engine technology, among other things. Having to come up with a new engine that fell within the specs for Nationwide Series racing required much engineering and research, and the engine that Toyota came up with this year required a willingness to spend money for the development of their engine. Nobody accused Toyota of cheating, just that they had a better engine program than the other teams. In fact, with the exception of Roush, the other drivers and teams were pressuring their manufacturers to do more with the engines they had.

In other words, Ford, Chevy, and Dodge were not willing to spend the money and resources Toyota spent on engine development. NASCAR could have evened things up, rather than down by allowing the other manufacturers a few more tools in souping up the engines they had, but, instead put a damper on all new engine development.

The new rule isn't likely to make much of a difference at the short tracks, such as Richmond, or O'Reilly Motorsports Park, but at tracks with long straightaways and at the intermediate tracks, Roush-Fenway will have a noticeable advantage. Carl Edwards undoubtably has the most talent of any full-time driver in the Nationwide Series, and, coupled with the horsepower advantage NASCAR has handed his team, he has been given his second championship in a row in the series. The season may as well be over now.

This is unfortunate for the Nationwide Series, especially for Brad Keselowski, who drives the #88 Chevy for JR-Hendrick Motorsports. Keselowski is within a stone's throw from taking the championship lead, and, if he had been able to win the championship, could have been the first non-Cup series regular to win the championship since Martin Truex, Jr did it in 2005. The series was shaping up to having its own brand of competition and its own identity, but now that trend has hit a concrete wall.

This is not a conspriacy theory, because NASCAR has taken the action above board and in full view of the public. To be fair, the conspiracy theory that NASCAR was allowing Toyota a more powerful engine than the other manufacturers was bad PR for the organization, so they rectified it by openly giving the advantage to the team that complained the most. As the old saying goes, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."

Congratulations to the 2008 Nationwide Series Champion, Carl Edwards.


Tim Zaegel said...

The title says it all, Jim. Well said.

TSRFan-John said...

How ironic is it that the car that has been dominating the Nationwide Series this year was 5th on the horsepower list? Maybe now Jack the Mouth will explain why his guys have more horsepower and still get beat. Could it be that maybe it's the guys behind the wheel, not the Toyota decal on the front.

marc said...

"Toyota is the only manufacturer that has introduced a new engine to the series at this point in time."

That statement is not entirely true, GM has submitted their new Cup engine for approval for use in NNS and NASCAR has sat on the decision.

Charlie Turner said...

I am amazed that this decision seems to surprise so many veteran watchers of the NASCAR scene. This kind of thing used to be a semi-monthly occurence, in the days of spoilers instead of splitters. They'll adapt.

Tim Zaegel said...

Actually, Charlie, I don't find this tidbit to be surprising in the least. To me, it's a simple case of NASCAR caving to people screaming unfair.

RevJim said...

More often than not, NASCAR has evened things up by allowing the other teams to catch up. This year has been different--first with the offset rear housing, and now with the engines. Chevy was planning to introduce the RO-7 to the Nationwide series, like Marc said, in 2009, but why bother if they have to limit the horsepower to a level lower than what they have now?