Monday, November 2, 2009

Bringing back the Past

We have watched NASCAR racing for a number of years now, and I have to wonder just how long the entire "show" is going to last.
NASCAR first came to life 50 years ago, when there were major manufacturers willing to put their cars up against the competition to see who was best. This was a win-win deal for the consumers. A car that was strong, a car that was aerodynamic, a car that was a clear winner, all paved the way for strong sales after the race.
All the manufacturers had an ace up their sleeve, be it power, reliability, brakes, or speed. That's what makes racing interesting. Who can produce the car that can conqueror Talladega, or Daytona? Hudson, Packard, Studebaker, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and all the others worked tirelessly to improve their offerings. The mindset was "win on Sunday, sell on Monday". The same 200 MPH cars that you saw at the track, were available in the local dealer's showroom, or at least, could be ordered there.

As time went by, the cars that you could buy in real life faded away, replaced by NASCAR's universal car. No more individuality would be tolerated, no bigger engines, no slicker aero packages. Now, the playing field had to be leveled. All the cars had to be the same, motors, bodies, and equipment. Where is the spirit of competition here? There are so many rules in place that the cars are all clones of each other, and the driver that stays awake 'til the end is declared the winner.

The trouble with NASCAR racing is, that it's obsolete. There are no more cool, fast cars, thanks to Government regulations, and insurance companies. There are no "stock" cars. We're all doomed to drive crappy four-door compacts, and engine output is less important than the number of cupholders the car offers. What we see on the track, is a fantasy, something we can't have, much less drive down the road. We're doomed to cheer on a driver only, not what he (or she) drives.

The years have been good to NASCAR, and now they should be good to the fans. Stop restrictor plate racing, for starters. Either you race, or you don't, but let's not force drivers to draft in order to get ahead. It usually results in a disaster, as drivers try to move up in the field.
Let's also get rid of "the car of tomorrow". These cars don't exist in the dealerships across the country, so why should we watch them race? Let's get real stock cars out there! All the flaws, weak motors, and handling problems will shine through the hype, and people can see just what the manufacturers are offering.
And lastly, with the auto industry catering to "soccer moms" rather than driving enthusiasts, why not fill the field with mini-vans, and have the driver carry the crew onboard? When they stop for fuel or tires, it could be like a "Chinese Fire Drill", where the crew could jump out, service the car, and then jump back in to continue the race.

Sadly, these are our "stock" cars. Heaven help us! What I wouldn't give to see a Hudson Hornet charging up through the field towards the checkered flag again!