- Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 December 2008 16:58
- Published on Wednesday, 17 December 2008 16:58
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The so called “Car of Tomorrow” became the race car of today for the 2008 season. Bad move all the way around.
When they finally come to their senses and junk this lemon, the epitaph for this dismal failure of NASCAR’s engineering wizards should be the words spoken by Kyle Busch when he won the first race that NASCAR ran with the “Car of Tomorrow” at Bristol in 2007. Young mister Busch climbed out of the car and into the glare of the photographers flash bulbs, and the spray of champagne, Pepsi or whatever product they were promoting that day, stepped up to the reporters' microphones, looked into the TV cameras and said. “This car sucks.”
After a full season of development, tweaking and massaging the NASCAR creation, Kyle Busch’s comments that day in Bristol ring truer than ever today. Aside from the fact that it is ugly and looks nothing like a car made by any of the major car companies, the higher center of gravity and less down force make for lousy racing.
Instead of exciting side-b- side racing and frequent passing, more often than not we were treated to the Sunday afternoon parade. Except for the different grill openings and manufacturers' decals on the front, the cars are all the same. So strict has NASCAR’s inspection templates become that they have virtually legislated away the creativity of the mechanics and engineers.
Tires remained a sore spot throughout most of the 2008 season. The racing team’s strategy was constantly being dictated by having to live within the limitations of the tires' capabilities. The failure of Goodyear to provide a tire that enabled the drivers to display their talents and skill really came to a head on July 27th in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. The tires Goodyear brought to the track would simply not hold up. In practice, the race teams complained the tires were wearing out in 5 or 6 laps. The solution? Goodyear brought in an extra 800 tires they had ready for the upcoming Pocono race. NASCAR officials advised the teams they would throw a competition yellow flag every 10 laps to give the teams a chance to change tires.
Incredibly that is exactly what they did. For perhaps the second most important race on the series schedule, NASCAR ran a series of approximately 10 lap sprints and had the audacity to smile and take the fans' money, call it a day and move on to the next week’s race. Only after a terrible hue and cry from fans wanting their money back and getting blistered in the media did NASCAR offer a lame apology.
Perhaps the most intriguing story was the dominance of Kyle Busch with 8 wins on the Cup Circuit and a record-setting 21 wins combined on the Cup, Nationwide, and Craftsman Truck circuits, and his total melt down in the Chase for the Championship.
With little passion and fan excitement, the cool, calculating Jimmie Johnson won his third straight Cup championship to equal Cale Yarborough’s thirty year old record.
You could have gotten big odds in Los Vegas before the start of the season betting that Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick would not win a race all season. For all the pre-season hype, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a solid but unspectacular season in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports.
On the Silly Season front, Tony Stewart announced he would be ending his ten year association with Joe Gibbs Racing to become part owner with the presently incarcerated Carl Haas and head up operation of the newly christened Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2009 season.
Ryan Newman announced he will leave Penske Racing after eight years to drive the second car for the Stewart-Haas team. Matt Kenseth and Gregg Biffle have re-upped with multi-year contracts to continue driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Bobby Labonte, the 2000 series champion, signed a new four-year contract with Petty Enterprises, only to be released from the contract when the team failed to land a sponsor for the famous #43. At this writing Labonte is looking for a ride for the 2009 season. DEI has been folded into Ganassi Racing. Bill Davis racing and Petty Enterprises will not be back.
2008 was a breakout season for Regan Smith as he captured the ‘Rookie of the Year” honors. The good news was short lived as Regan lost his ride for 2009 with the merger of DEI and Ganassi Racing.