Whoever said “time changes everything” never followed NASCAR. No change is a good change to the overlords of NASCAR. Those 15-inch tires and carburetors were good for NASCAR’s forefathers, so they should be good for the young whippersnappers of today. But having relevance to cars and technology of today and tomorrow is a draw. Especially with kids and young adults immersed in technology, NASCAR must look like marathon dancing to them. But now NASCAR is ready to launch changes that might actually get their racecar technology into the 1980s. Yeah!
In some ways, it’s a testament to NASCAR that it has fended off technology any significant updates to its Cup Series. The problem, however, for staying stuck in the 1960s is that the cars’ relevance diminishes. And NASCAR has stripped an awful lot of relevance away from the cars as we crash into the 21st century.
Even the appearance of the cars has been homogenized into an oatmeal-like paste. You can’t tell the make of one car from the next. If it was trying to stay mired in the 1960s NASCAR should have at least remembered that brand rivalry was one of its main draws.
Has NASCAR seen the errors in its ways and finally move its cars into the 1980s at least?
Anyway, enough NASCAR bashing. It has seen the error in its ways and will be instituting some changes it hopes will appeal to young and old alike. It hopes to also make it easier to pull in automotive-related advertising since the racecars will be a tiny bit more like what auto parts stores and car companies actually sell. I mean, where can you buy a carburetor or 15-inch tires anymore?
Let’s start with the spec transmission. NASCAR is looking to require a sequential transmission for the 2021 season. They’ve been using them in Australia’s Supercars series for years. The advantage is that with more gears there would need to be shifts done on the straights. That means some excellent passing action. Possibly Xtrac’s six-speed transaxle unit or something very similar would be what is chosen.
The live axle has been the bread-and-butter of NASCAR rear suspensions. But it can be like a pogo stick in a flip. It also becomes unwieldy when the car starts bouncing around on the track. It’s a recipe for loss of control. The “spring and bucket” dampers are a crude reminder of the era they came into use; which was the 1960s.
Independent rear suspensions have both safety and handling advantages
It looks like independent rear ends may see a use for a number of reasons. In a crash, the energy of the crash can be released through jettisoning suspension parts away from the car. The other is the fine-tuning offered that live axles just can’t compare.
NASCAR tracks have never seen an independent rear or coilover but the word is that those slick components that have even been found in hot rods since the 1970s might find their way on NASCAR racecars in 2021. Staying glued to the asphalt is not a bad thing.
We can’t think of another form of racing that still uses lug nuts to fasten wheels. Knockoffs have been used in many forms of racing for 100 years so it’s not exactly new tech. It fastens the wheels quicker, faster, and better than lug nuts. This one-two punch would also see a shift to 18-inch wheels from the antique 15-inch variety currently used. Can you even buy 15-inch tires anymore?
Let’s see NASCAR move from the metal spec bodies to carbon fiber
The metal bodies still in use are also a throwback to the days when these cars were really “stock” cars. Stockcars only had stock bodies. The idea stayed though NASCAR has been using the generic spec bodies for years. Now it is considering going with carbon fiber bodies. This would lock in the “spec” aspect of spec bodies without the noodling of the metal bodies and the invitation to cheat they represent.
If there was nothing else that you took away from the Ryan Newman Daytona 500 crash it’s that the cars bunch up for a reason. Drafting is integral to NASCAR. But if one is a hairsbreadth off the line all Hell can break loose. Cars go flying and worse. There shouldn’t be such reliance on another racer’s car to help get around the track.
So now NASCAR is looking into changing the aero on the spec cars to lessen the need for drivers to bunch up. Working independently or other cars means safer laps, more real racing, and dependence on what the driver is doing instead of many cars affecting many other cars.
Could hybrid engines be too far behind?
By 2022 it looks like NASCAR will institute hybrid engine systems into the cars. It’s quite controversial now, but what many of the manufacturers want since, you know, that’s what they sell. It used to be “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” but we’re so far away from that reality it seems like another century. Oh wait, it was in another century. Yikes!
Anything that makes the cars more relevant, and makes them more like what the manufacturers sell, are great in our book. It’s time to stop paying respects to the moonshine haulers of the bootleg era and get with the times. We encourage NASCAR to institute changes quickly.