NASCAR puts muzzle of drivers

The new Car of Tomorrow Sprint Cup car is so bad drivers criticize it every race, so Friday in Michigan NASCAR decided to put a muzzle on its drivers and essentially told them to "shut up and race, we're working on the problems." Some call it the Car of Yesterday since the technology on the new car dates back to the 50s and 60s and in terms of passing it's a huge step backwards.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says that today's closed-door meeting with NASCAR officials made him think about some of the comments he has made concerning NASCAR's new model Sprint Cup car.

Earnhardt Jr. said that he listened and recognized the impression fans get from the negative talk about the car that is being used in all Cup races this season. He also said that NASCAR is doing more behind-the-scenes work with the new model than he was aware of.

The car, which debuted on intermediate tracks this season after being run in 16 races last year, has drawn constant fire from drivers who feel passing is too difficult in the new model and the heat inside the cockpit is unbearable at times. It's funny – NASCAR claimed the new car would make passing easier so the fans would see more of it, instead they engineered the car to make passing less frequent. Fire those engineers will ya.

Earnhardt Jr. has not been a fan of the model, though he has run well in it and is third in the driver standings this season.

Still, the Hendrick Motorsports' driver said that the private talk made an impression on him. He did not reveal the specifics of the conversation but did offer his impression of it.

"My interpretation was that the drivers should be thankful for the position they're in and should be more positive in where this car is going to be in a year or two and more … it reminds me a lot of working with video-game developers. And the reason why the analogy works is because the public wants to know how good the game is. The public wants to know what's being fixed. Once the game is released, there's a lot of buzz and stuff, just like with this race car, and the public wants to know when it's going to be fixed, what's being worked on, what's going to be added, and a lot of companies are not eager to give that information out until it's done and Finished, and I see NASCAR with that same attitude," he said. "I think they do a lot of work behind the scenes, and they probably agree with us more than we tend to believe.

"They understand that the car is new, and that it's going to evolve, and we're going to learn more, and maybe three years from now we'll look back at what we have today and say, 'Man, can you believe that's the way we did it' because there will be some things we'll find that will just be like, 'Man, that's way better; let's go in that direction.' So I think they're doing more than we give them credit for. They're thinking and working and trying and wanting to improve and that we should, us drivers, should do less complaining.

"I was pretty critical and overly critical at times, and the only reason why the drivers are like that is because they want, we feel like our best avenue is through the media because it's very effective … but at the same time not only NASCAR reads those opinions, and it's not good for the sport," he said. "If I enjoy what I do and I'm having fun and want to be here and want to be around for a while, I shouldn't tell people not to buy tickets."

"As a driver you just pent up the anguish that you had about the situation, and you misinterpret NASCAR's position and their approach and what they're really doing," he said. "They're doing a lot with the car now. They're coming up with some new ideas and new ways to make the car not quite as sensitive in dirty air, and they'll be testing that soon, hopefully…. I think it's great that they feel like the car can evolve. It should, as every car that's been involved in the sport has evolved. This car should as well. I feel like they know that, and they're open to it … You want to make the car where it has more front grip and drives better in dirty air and turns down in the corner better, at the same time, I like the way the rules are stricter on this car. It's a very difficult situation to have both."

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