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NASCAR update for January 18th

by Dave Grayson
Monday, January 18, 2010

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The car of Tomorrow is reverting back to the Car of Yesterday on several fronts
Over the past few days we have been tantalized by NASCAR with a very exciting, but still pending, announcement that the winds of change may be in the air. It also now appears that two dates on the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will be making some changes. Meanwhile Jeff Gordon spent last week building a house in South Carolina but declined to give Tiger Woods driving tips. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

A rarely issued triple THUMBS-UP goes to NASCAR this week for some anticipated changes that will lead to some very exciting racing in 2010. While announcements have not been officially made yet, it appears that the sanctioning body will be issuing the Sprint Cup teams a slightly larger restrictor plate for this year's Daytona 500. That will produce an increase in horsepower, torque and throttle response which, in turn, could lead to a very exciting afternoon at Daytona.

A second THUMBS-UP goes to NASCAR for proposed changes to their Car Of Today that includes design modifications to the rear window and trunk lid areas. This particular change specifically calls for replacing the car's current rear wing with the traditional spoiler that was used in the past. It's believed that a return to the use of a spoiler will create additional down force and improved handling for the cars. Also under consideration is the implementation of a three inch high shark fin that will be placed from the top of the rear window and extend to the trunk lid. It's believed that this fin will provide more stability if the car begins to slide sideways. It's anticipated that it will be sometime in March before this change is officially implemented.

A third THUMBS-UP goes to NASCAR's consideration to repealing their no bump draft zones during restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega. In effect, this move will be putting the race back into the hands of the drivers who will then police themselves. The no bump draft zones, through the turns of the two tracks, produced a Talladega race, last fall, that no one wants to see again.

Finally there is strong consideration to eliminating the yellow line rule during races at each track. In the past, if a car crossed the yellow lines at the bottom of the track to improve their positions a penalty was issued. This consideration will also put the matter into the hands of the drivers who will police themselves.

NASCAR has clearly put a lot of thought into these proposed changes and held extensive meetings with drivers and their teams to get their input. A formal announcement regarding the new policies is expected on January 21st.

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THUMBS-UP to the Auto Club Speedway's recent announcement to shorten their October Sprint Cup event. The former 500 mile race will now be known as the Pepsi Max 400. Due to my southern California home base, I have been a long time supporter of the Fontana located speedway and look forward to the NASCAR weekends there. But even I have to admit that, when the field gets strung out on that giant two mile oval, the middle portion of a 500 mile race there can sometimes become a little tedious.

The decision to shorten the October race to 400 laps is a positive step in the right direction. It's very likely that the change in race strategy that will come with the shorter distance will create a more exciting mid race and could impact the end of the event as well. I've been a long time proponent of a comment Sprint Cup driver Bobby Labonte made over three years ago: "if you want to increase the excitement of these races for the fans, then make them shorter."

From the opposite end of this extreme comes a WHAT'S-UP for the recent announcement that said the April 10th Sprint Cup race at the Phoenix International Raceway will be increased from 312 to 375 laps or, in the case of their events being measured in kilometers, 500km to 603 km.

According to a press release this move will insure the one mile speedway can keep its status as the first official NASCAR Sprint Cup night race of the season. The reports also said this is something that both NASCAR and the fans wanted. Sundown for this time of the year in Arizona comes at approximately 7 pm local time. With NASCAR's recent mandate regarding standardized start times, the extra laps will guarantee the race will end under the lights.

The event will also be the first of some Saturday night Sprint Cup races in the 2010 season and with that comes that proverbial double edged sword that we've seen in past years. There are attending fans who appreciate the Saturday Sprint Cup events. Let's face it, it's very convenient in terms of travel arrangements for getting back home. Also, when you consider the usual television network fare on Saturday nights it's logical that there could be potentially high ratings for a NASCAR broadcast on that night.

Dangling on the other edge of this sword are the local track owners and promoters whose carefully scheduled race programs will have to find a way to compete with Saturday night Cup racing on national television. By the way, many of these tracks are actually NASCAR sanctioned. I can personally name a few track operators in eastern Arizona and southwest California who are not going to be thrilled with a Saturday night race in Phoenix.

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THUMBS-UP to NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon who spent last week in Loris-South Carolina where he participated in a home restoration. Gordon was a celebrity builder on the ABC television series "Extreme Make Over: Home Edition." He arrived at the sight bright and early on a Monday morning looking for a hammer so he could get to work. Gordon was reported to be willing to do anything to help the home owners except for climbing a ladder to the roof of the home. There was some legitimate concern that any roof top endeavors could aggravate the driver's recent back problems.

The home owners, Amanda and Derrick Suggs, were thrilled when they learned Gordon was coming to visit. They are both NASCAR fans and the husband is a big Jeff Gordon fan. The couple was selected for a home make over by the show's producers who cited their willingness to adopt Amanda's younger siblings to keep them away from potential foster care. The producers also noted that Derrick Suggs, a local police officer, was a recent nominee for Officer Of The Year and helped save an infant who had stopped breathing.

A second THUMBS-UP goes out to Jeff Gordon and his lovely wife Ingrid for their sense of humor after they were recently captured by "TMZ" paparazzi video cameras on the streets of New York. The Hollywood based "TMZ", which stands for Thirty Mile Zone, is a highly successful entertainment based website whose investigative skills has often allowed them to be the first to release major news stories.

On the other extreme "TMZ" is also a very silly television show featuring paid paparazzi videos and still photos. During their New York "TMZ" experience Jeff Gordon was asked if he had any driving tips for embattled professional golfer Tiger Woods. The Gordons didn't reply but they did laugh all the way down the sidewalk.

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Finally there's two THUMBS-UPS for the best NASCAR themed "Twitter" messages from last week.

The first one goes to driver/team owner Kevin Harvick who commented on his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, and series champion, Ron Hornaday Jr. In his phone text Harvick wrote "we have Ron in the gym which is kind of scary."

The second "Twitter" THUMBS-UP goes to the always fun Michael Waltrip who, during the course of some recent travelling, wrote "I just got stripped searched, it was awesome."

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