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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Tires, passing and more Cup drivers in Nationwide

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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Throughout the week you can send us your best questions, jokes, rants and just plain miscellaneous thoughts to happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com or @NickBromberg. We'll post them here, have a good time and everyone's happy. Right? Oh who are we kidding, this is NASCAR. No one is ever happy.

A lot was made about the "revolutionary" tire at Atlanta, so we might as well start with a question about tires, right?

I thought the Atlanta race was fantastic because of the tire fall off. Two questions:
1. Was it the track or the new tire that caused the falloff or both?
2. What other tracks promote tire fall off? Why?
Thanks. Love the blog.
-Drew

It was a good race -- but that was it. It wasn't great, nor did it come close to approaching some of the classics that we've seen at Atlanta in the past.

If we weren't told that a different tire was being used on Sunday night, would we have known a difference? I ask that question in all seriousness. The reason the tire had to be so revolutionary was because the tires that were originally used at the beginning of the Atlanta tire test weren't lasting very long.

That's not to say that the tire was a failure by any means -- though calling it a success right after the race was a bit of premature PR. The tire had fall-off and it had durability. But why should that be such of a big deal? It is only because we're used to races at tracks with fresh pavement and no tire fall-off.

And that's not Goodyear's exclusive fault. I'm of the thought that all parties involved should have been more proactive than reactive when it came to the newfound demands of the new car, but that's a different topic for a different day. As Geoffrey Miller wrote this week, we're all just listening to the hype machine spin all around us. Now, speaking of the new car...
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My question is: We know the teams and the manufacturers use wind tunnels to test these cars; do they not have a wind tunnel that can simulate air flow during a passing situation? Can they not do such testing, with scales under the tires in order to measure downforce and how it's affected by side-by-side racing?
It just seems to me that, when the Gen 6 car was introduced, a lot of teams were "surprised" at how one car coming up alongside another could make the first car loose. If the teams were doing their homework, wouldn't that have come up in either wind-tunnel testing, or computer simulations? And if this actually WAS a known problem, shouldn't teams--and NASCAR--have addressed such a problem? I have trouble believing that NASCAR or the major teams would WANT to have cars getting wrecked because another car took away the air on the side; but then, maybe they ARE catering to the fans who watch the races only for the wrecks, and who are more interested in the pit stops than the RACING, which to me has always been about passing other cars under the green flag.
At the most recent Bristol race, the most excitement I saw was when Kasey Kahne was trying to run down and then pass Matt Kenseth at the end. But then, maybe I'm an old fogey; to me, that stuff USED to be what racing was all about, two cars side-by-side, one going for the pass, the other trying to prevent it. Maybe the modern definition of racing IS about wrecks and gaining positions on pit road...but as far as I'm concerned, racing will always be about passing under green and tradin' paint if that's what it takes to make it happen.
And I'm beginning to miss that part of Cup racing.
- Buzz

There's only so much you can do when it comes to simulations. My armchair analysis wonders if it's because teams don't spend that much time running in packs or near each other during practice, and then the only time that the cars are very close to each other is during a race.

Now, I understand why teams play it the way they do -- you don't want to get a car crashed in practice. But I have to wonder if there's some data to be gathered.

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How big a points lead would Sam Hornish Jr. have at the moment if the Cup regulars didn't keep stealing his wins? I know he has finished 2nd to his team mates from Cup twice this year at least, and he once again was leading the Nationwide regulars at Atlanta. Only to have 3rd place behind Harvick and Busch. Here's a crazy idea, don't give Cup regulars who are driving in the 'minors' points. Sure Sam finished 3rd, but he was highest Nationwide driver so give him points for the win. That would give Kyle Larson a 2nd, not a 5th. Yes I realize that the Cup drivers coming 'down' to a Nationwide race may draw in a few more fans into the stands, but why should the full time Nationwide drivers be penalized for a more experienced, over qualified driver stealing a win? Wouldn't people cry foul if a professional baseball team such as St. Louis played a minor league team and acted like they did a major accomplishment when they stomped em? There wouldn't have been nearly as many drivers a lap down at the end of the Nationwide race if were there were no Cup drivers blowing the field away from the drop of the green. I am sorry Kyle, but the only wins that count in my book for Cup drivers are CUP WINS. You can pat yourself on the back all you want for your Truck and Nationwide wins and pad your win total to your hearts content...... but all you did was beat up the 'minors'. Good Job, you beat someone you SHOULD beat
Tell me the extra track time doesn't help, look at the line Harvick found during the Nationwide race and how he transferred that over to his Cup finish. Now sure, every other driver saw it and used it as well but still, he had the ON TRACK experience of implementing it.
And Cup drivers could still race for the Owner's Points Championship, that's all they get anyway when they run Nationwide. Deal out the owner point's as you would a normal race.
- Shawn

Oh man, Shawn, that's a lot of math. Sam has finished second five times this year and they've all been to Cup drivers. If you want to give him four more points (one for another position and then three for the win) for each race, he'd have 20 more points. But then we'd play the game with everyone else.

In case you were wondering, Austin Dillon has finished second once this year and that was to Trevor Bayne in the first Iowa race.

I'm also really not sure about the attendance impacts either. It sure seems that many fans are suffering Cup fatigue in the Nationwide Series. I wonder which outweighs the other?

I'm going to break this next one down line by line.

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1---Make it more of a drivers' race, less of a chassis tuners' race. Put chassis adjusters inside the car. Electric motors or other gizmos can replace the cranks in the back windows. Let the driver adjust their suspension during the running. We want to watch the drivers race at their best, not be hindered by a car that doesn't suit the track at that time.

What if we put navigators in the passenger side of the car similar to rally racing? And then if there needs to be an adjustment he/she climbs in the back of the car and makes it?
2---More of a drivers' race---more road courses. Fewer dull mile-and-a-half roundandroundandround races.

Let's race the whole F1 schedule? How fun would that be?
3---Pick up the quality of the low budget teams to make them more competitive. I don't know enough about it, but some smart people must have some good ideas for co-op chassis building of top quality cars or other ways to increase the size of the competitive field.

So the most competitive field in Sprint Cup history isn't competitive enough?
4--For the playoffs...err, Chase...drop the twelve-position Chase points driver out of the Chase each week and put the highest points non-Chase drive into the Chase. Those races would be fun to watch with the risk of being dropped from the playoffs!

I wouldn't be surprised if elimination implemented in the near future.
5---In Nationwide, put any Cup driver in the top half of the Cup points in the back to start. Who wants to see Kyle Bush win another Nationwide race, or Harvick, or Keselowski, etc.? Let them race, but make it tough on them in order to even out the competition.

Someone has converted to our cause!
6---More night races...it suits my schedule better.
Are the Gen 6 car bodies more fragile? They seem to get knocked apart from moderate impacts more than previous car generations.
- Ken

Carbon fiber, baby. Carbon fiber.
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I have a good question and suggestion for the cup race. I know the last race is at Homestead. Well why not let everyone race for points up till the homestead race. The top 10 drivers in points take that week off and have one final race at Daytona where those drivers race for the cup. No points, just whomever takes the checkered flag takes home the cup. That way those 10 drivers have 2 weeks to prepare and you can have a Daytona cup week party just like they do for the Daytona 500.
Because right now, I think it is unfair with what is going on with the 48, that Hendrick shows Johnson more attention and pours more money into his team then the other teams.
- Thomas

If you think that Hendrick focuses on the No. 48 more than the teams of Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Dale freaking Earnhardt Jr., you're out of your mind.

I don't know if NASCAR should end with a restrictor plate race. I like the idea of ending at Daytona, but the unpredictability of plate racing could lead to something really bizarre happening. Would that be a good thing or too Derrike Cope? I'm all for a plate race staying in the Chase. Just not sure about being at the end -- though I've waffled on this.

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