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New Spoiler Should Lead To Better Racing

[1]It’s official, this weekend’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway will be the last in which the car-of-tomorrow (today) will feature a rear wing. Starting at next week’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the COT will feature a rear spoiler, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton confirmed.

NASCAR announced in January [2] that they would do away with the rear wing, replacing it with a rear spoiler. Fans complained that the races were becoming too boring due to the lead car’s ability to run away from the pack, and drivers complained that the wing limited visibility. Also, the wing made cars look significantly different from their street counterparts.  As a result, NASCAR began designing and testing a new spoiler.

According to Pemberton, the new spoiler will be 64.5 inches wide, four inches tall, and set at a 70-degree angle. At plate tracks, it may be one-half inch taller and two inches narrower. It will have a straight blade, as opposed to the contoured blade that the Sprint Cup cars used to have. Richardson Racing Products manufactures the spoiler. At restrictor plate tracks, NASCAR will issue the spoilers. For the other tracks, teams can buy them.

Pemberton said:

I think it’s an opportunity to change things up a little bit — and quite frankly, the wing wasn’t accepted as universally as we had hoped it would be by competitors and the fans alike. So after much effort, we started looking and decided to go back to the spoiler.

Teams tested the spoiler at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this week. Originally, the spoiler was U-shaped with two-inch by 12-inch extension flaps. But drafting speeds were higher than NASCAR wanted, so they cut the flaps and narrowed the spoiler.  In addition to higher speeds, the cars had high closing rate, which led to severe bump-drafting.

Pemberton said:

The feedback was the cars were stable but the closure rate was a little too much at some points. And that’s what we spent most of the afternoon working on, was trying to slow that closure rate down.

In addition, the shark fin that appeared on the left side of the rear window and deck lid during the Daytona 500 will be used at all tracks beginning at Martinsville [3]. The fin was to only be used at restrictor plate tracks but after Brad Keselowski’s flip at Atlanta Motor Speedway [4], NASCAR has decided that it was an asset that could be used everywhere.

I’m glad to see that NASCAR is doing everything it can to make the racing more interesting and exciting for spectators. If your driver is not leading, the race can be pretty boring if one driver runs away with it. While the dominant car in the race doesn’t always win, when it does we feel a little cheated.

Watching an entire race is a big time investment. If I commit three-to-five hours to watch a race, I want to be rewarded with good racing. And, I’m sorry, but watching a three-hour game of follow the leader is not exciting. I want to see passing. I want to see three-wide. I want to see excitement.

And, I think the new spoiler will help provide excitement. The spoiler should put a little more adjustability into the car, allowing teams to have better-handling race cars. And, better handling race cars, I think, will lead to better racing.

It seems that since NASCAR implemented the COT, more and more drivers have complained about their car’s handling. Hopefully going back to something that crew chiefs are be a little more familiar with will allow them to take better-prepared cars to the track.

I also think that the testing ban is hurting teams’ ability to wrap their head around the wing. Simulators and wind tunnels can show you some things, but nothing is as valuable as track time.

In part, an inability for some crew chiefs to wrap their heads around the wing has led teams who understand the wing (read Jimmie Johnson) to dominate. I hope the spoiler will level the playing field a little more.

I know that drivers won’t run three-wide on every lap at every track. And not every race will be exciting from start to finish. But, the spoiler should, at least, make things better than the were.