Toyota rule change unnecessary, un-American
The cries grew to deafening levels from fans and drivers about how NASCAR needed to do something to slow down the Toyotas, who are putting on a clinic in all three top series. The critics were focusing on the Nationwide series, where the Toyota entries (more specifically, the Joe Gibbs Toyota entries) are the class of the field each week. Toyotas have been to Victory Lane in the series 14 of 21 races so far this season, including eight straight races at one point.
This is an outrage, critics said, and the Toyotas needed to be slowed down in some way so there could be more parity. Apparently NASCAR now agrees, and has just announced a new rule altering the spacer applied to Toyota’s Nationwide Series engine, which will result in lost horsepower. "Eventually, all teams that upgrade to new engine packages will be subject to this rule modification,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “Over the years in our sport, we’ve taken steps on numerous occasions to help maintain a level playing field among our competitors and we will continue to do so.”
As a fan of NASCAR, I can sympathize with those who support this new restriction. Nobody likes a race with a runaway winner, and that has happened quite a bit this season. Part of me will love seeing more competition up front and between the different car makes in the Nationwide races.
But there are several problems with the arguments in favor of keeping Toyota’s power down. The first is that many of the complaints are based on emotion, on the fact that Toyota is a foreign nameplate and not one of the U.S. Big 3. If it were GM, Ford or Chrysler cars dominating the Nationwide series, do you think as many people would be calling for limits on their power? I doubt it. Proof of this is that Chevrolet teams dominated the Cup series in 2007, but there was nowhere near as much complaining about their success as we’re hearing this year about Toyota.
The other problem is that NASCAR is not truly a “stock car” series anymore, and there are going to be differences in power between teams. This is not what IROC once was … where drivers are given truly equal pieces of equipment and success is based totally on the driver's ability. Clint Bowyer made a comment that “a monkey” could win in the #20 Nationwide car, which has seen Victory Lane with four drivers this year. He may have been joking, but that comment just reeks of jealousy to me.
Horsepower numbers are going to be different between teams, depending what the engineers do. Gibbs engine builder Mark Cronquist, who has helped bring Cup titles to the organization, is at the pinnacle of his profession, and his ability to squeeze horsepower out of an engine is amazing. It’s even more impressive when you realize that last season, Toyota struggled just to make races. While the skills of the Toyota drivers have a lot to do with this year’s success, don’t discount the role Cronquist and his engine building colleagues have had in this year’s surge of success for Toyota.
What's more American than hard work leading to success? Why should it be punished?
Rightfully so, the Toyota people were not happy with the new limitation. After it was announced, Toyota Racing Development President Lee White said he was “extremely disappointed” in NASCAR’s decision. “In our opinion, there is no technical justification to penalize the Toyota engine utilized in the Nationwide Series,” White said Wednesday evening. “The success of the Toyota Camry this year in the Nationwide Series is the result of hard work and achievement by all of our race teams.”
Finally, mid-year adjustments have always seemed unnecessary to me. I remember a few years ago how NASCAR would be adjusting the nose of one make or another in Cup after the first few races of the season to even up the competition. Unless the difference between the makes is ridiculously huge, I think all of these modifications meant to create parity can wait until the end of the year. Let them use the same equipment from start to finish and then judge what changes need to be made after seeing how the equipment did all year.
Bowyer and others drivers upset about Toyota’s dominance in Nationwide better hope they start to compete more. NASCAR is already giving them a boost, so here's my advice to the whiners: Stop the complaining and simply do better. Build better engines, adjust your cars better during the races, and do whatever else you have to do to beat those Toyotas that make your blood boil so much.
I see no reason for NASCAR to punish Toyota for working hard and building a better engine. To put it simply, that’s just un-American.
Stewart takes Foyt’s number
When he begins driving for Stewart-Haas Racing next year, Tony Stewart will have the number 14, formerly used by the legendary A.J. Foyt. It’s fitting, as Foyt was as feisty a driver as Stewart is today.
World of difference
I have to detour to Formula 1 for a minute, and point out how amazing it is that FIA president Max Mosley has apparently survived a controversy surrounding a sex tape that shows him with several prostitutes engaging in a Nazi-themed sado-masochistic orgy. When this vile tape came out a few months ago, everyone thought his career was over, but apparently that wasn’t to be. There was a vote on his future, and he was not removed from office. Even more amazing was his decision to turn the tables, suing the newspaper which released the tape for invasion of privacy. It appears Mosley, who is married and the son of a known fascist, has now portrayed himself to be the victim, and will continue his career unscathed.
To put this in perspective, what do you think would happen if Brian France or another NASCAR bigwig was caught on tape with several prostitutes in a Nazi-themed orgy? I’m going to go out on a limb and say they wouldn’t get as much of a pass on this side of the pond.
Right time for GEM to grow?
Gillett-Evernham Motorsports has indicated it may be another possible destination spot for the many drivers who will be seeking a ride for 2009. The team has begun to show a return to form this season, but unless a fourth team comes with some big-time sponsor money, the team may want to spend 2009 getting its three current teams consistently up front before bringing in the distraction of a new team.