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Scrap these 'common template' cars and let Detroit race the 'real' things: Mustangs, Camaros and Chargers....

Tough enough? Chevy's new Camaro certainly looks NASCAR-tough. So why isn't GM taking up NASCAR's offer to race it? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Idle musings during a Friday afternoon thunderstorm:

   NASCAR executives are trying to turn the Nationwide series into something of a 'pony-car,' 'muscle-car' tour, which is a brilliant idea, with potentially new demographics and more marketing punch.
   And those who have seen the new NASCAR-designed Nationwide car-of-tomorrow say it's a good-looker….though conceding it will be a major expense, for teams that are already deep in a hole.
   So it's even unclear just how NASCAR will handle the new Nationwide car.
   Ford and Dodge have signed on to that 'muscle car' marketing concept, but General Motors' officials are continuing to resist putting their new Camaro into the on-track mix.
   Okay, why?
   The new Camaro is already a well-marketed NASCAR pace car this season, and it's a spiffy muscle car, which would match up well with the Mustang.
   So why would GM resist NASCAR push to include it in next season's Nationwide tour?
   Simple – GM is resisting putting the Camaro under NASCAR's 'common template' body rules.
   GM's Chevrolet division wants to hold to the Camaro's distinctive new styling, rather than have to slap decals on a race car that would be all but identical to a common template Mustang and Charger.
   And GM is right to hold to that line. NASCAR officials need to let the NASCAR Mustang be more of a 'real' Mustang, and the same with the Charger and the Camaro.
   The 'common template' concept should be scrapped, on the Cup side too. Technology and the quality of NASCAR inspectors have improved dramatically to where NASCAR executives can drop the common template rule. In fact, if NASCAR did just that, maybe Detroit would be willing to spend a few more dollars on the Nationwide series.
   Toyota officials says they have no plans to bring out any 'muscle car,' that they will again race the Camry in Nationwide.
   GM says it will again badge its Nationwide cars as Impalas.  

Star crew chief Greg Zipadelli (R, with Joey Logano) (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   One way to boost NASCAR TV ratings and crowds, and cut some costs for these Sprint Cup teams, says crew chief Greg Zipadelli, last Sunday's winner at Loudon, N.H., would be to cut the Cup tour back to about 34 events.
   "Cut the Shootout in February, cut the All-star race at Charlotte, to begin with," Zipadelli says. "And maybe cut a couple of tour races too.
   "Get this thing back to where it's more manageable.
   "People don't realize how much it takes to turn things around after one race and be ready for the next one. We're at Daytona for two weeks, then we have to haul across country to California and Las Vegas….."
    NASCAR is talking about more two-day shows for its series, to cut expenses, but Zipadelli says that's fallacious reasoning: "How much money would we save on two-day shows? Our sponsors are spending a lot of good money on these teams, and we're jammed for time at the track as it is, and that would just be one less day to try to get your stuff right, and one less day to promote the race."
   Rival team owners are suddenly being forced to implement major pay cuts across the board (no percentages are yet available, but it's looking like from 10 percent to 15 percent). Zipadelli says, given the economy, that's not unexpected: "It's like the housing market – when things are going up, up, up, these team owners were doing a good job, and we're building $40 million buildings, with 200 employees, and all these planes….and when suddenly the plug gets pulled, it's a big hurt."
   By cutting the Sprint Cup tour from 38 weeks a year (26 regular season events, two special events, and 10 playoff races) to 34 weeks, Zipadelli says, could have a big effect on a team's bottom line, and it could make each of the sport's individual events more valuable.
   Zipadelli says the current tour, virtually non-stop from February through November, has oversaturated the market for NASCAR racing.


  Robby Gordon: Bruised but okay (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Robby Gordon is okay after a big off-road crash while testing for the upcoming Primm 300.
   Gordon's SCORE Baja 500 controversy, however, appears no closer to resolution. "It will be a process," Gordon says.
   Apparently the new SCORE boss is trying to make the off-road series a bit more organized, a little more structured, than the well-known anything-goes operation it has been.
   Gordon finished first; but post-race penalties a few days later pushed him back to sixth, and the driver who finished seventh was declared the winner. Apparently Gordon isn't the only driver complaining about SCORE's rules interpretations and penalties.
   A few video clips of Gordon's recent Baja run: HERE.
HERE. and

   NASCAR's new Hall of Fame in Charlotte will induct its first five members in October, and a group of NASCAR executives and track owners have just released their list of 25 nominees.
    While the new Hall of Fame looks like it will be a welcomed tourist attraction in downtown Charlotte, with flashy exhibits and artifacts, picking yet another list of 'Hall of Famers' might seem a little trite – after all the sport has been inducting legends into the Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame at Darlington since 1965 (and also at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega).
   And picking just five for the new place may seem a little odd.


The new crop of candidates for NASCAR's Charlotte Hall of Fame

This sport can boast probably at least 100 true legends, and it would seem more logical simply to induct en masse the entire 50-plus NASCAR contingent from the Darlington Hall of Fame, and add from there.
   The men in the Darlington Hall of Fame (created in 1965 by the National Motorsports Press Association): Bobby Allison, Davey Allison, Sam Ard, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker, Cannonball Baker, Junior Johnson, Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson, Fireball Roberts, Herb Thomas, Bob Welborn, Cale Yarborough, Alan Kulwicki, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Neil Bonnett, Harold Brasington, Red Byron, Bob Colvin, Jerry Cook, Darel Dieringer, Junie Donlavey, Clay Earles, Dale Earnhardt, Ralph Earnhardt, Chris Economaki, Richie Evans, Bob Flock, Fonty Flock, Tim Flock, Ray Fox Sr., A. J. Foyt, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Harry Gant, Barney Hall, Ray Hendrick, John Holman, Tommy Houston, Harry Hyde, Jack Ingram, Dale Inman, Jack Ingram, Bobby Isaac, Carl Kiekhaefer, Ned Jarrett, Houston Lawing, Joe Littlejohn, Butch Lindley, Banjo Matthews, Paul McDuffie, Ralph Moody, Bud Moore, Billy Myers, Ed Otto, Cotton Owens, Marvin Panch, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Jim Pascal, Lee Petty, Maurice Petty, Richard Petty, Pat Purcell, Tim Richmond, T. Wayne Robertson, Paul Sawyer, Wendell Scott, Ralph Seagraves, Jack Smith, Bruton Smith, Marshall Teague, Speedy Thompson, Curtis Turner, Red Vogt, Darrell Waltrip, T. Taylor Warren, Rex White, Humpy Wheeler, Glen Wood, Leonard Wood, Lee Roy Yarbrough, Smokey Yunick, and Joe Weatherly (for whom this Hall of Fame was originally named).
   But the way the new Hall is going the first five seem obviously: Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and David Pearson.
    Petty himself has a warning: "A lot of the reporters who will vote on this don't know the history of the sport.
   "If you're not careful you'll be putting personalities in, and that's not right. You ought to put the guys in who did the job – like Harold Brasington, building Darlington. He needs to be in the Hall of Fame.
   "If I were looking at history, I'd be looking at guys like him, guys who got it started, not just the guys who carried it on."
   So Petty suggests the new Hall-of-Famers be divided into eras.
   The next men who should go in the Hall of Fame: Robert Yates, Jake Elder and Les Richter.


Good column. NASCAR should

Good column. NASCAR should scrap the POS car running in the cup series right now and let the manufacturer's get back to running cars that LOOK like the car they are supposed to be. The drivers and fans hate the common template car. Decals don't make brand loyalty. the nationwide series is already hurting and having cup drivers win all the races doesn't help. If you're in a cup ride, you shouldn't be able to compete for the championship in another lower series.

And I think Zippy has a good idea. Too many races on the schedule have made it too long a season AND since the first 26 races are for seeding only these days for the last 10, it's like the way I follow hockey any more -- I don't bother to watch until the playoffs. When you dilute the product, you lose fans.

Thanks. My next project is to

Thanks. My next project is to persuade NASCAR's Jim France to match up the Grand-Am GT cars and NASCAR's Nationwide cars so they can race again each other...at places like Sonoma, Montreal, Daytona, Watkins Glen, and Homestead....let's just see if these Porsche GTs can really take a NASCAR pounding
And I agree -- get the Cup drivers out of Nationwide. Just make it a rule: if you go up to the Cup tour and have a full-time Cup ride, you can't drop back and cherrypick Triple A events.

No to a shorter schedule, no

No to a shorter schedule, no to pony cars.

The COT is a failure, no question. NASCAR needs real racecars - what it had in 2006. Long snout, flush nose/airdam, chopped roofline, shortish rear deck, blade spoiler. The airdam needs to be 3 or fewer inches off the ground; the nose needs to be strengthened for better push-drafting;, the rear bumper and deck changed to what the COT has, for better push-drafting; the rear spoiler needs to be 7.5 inches high with a 1-inch wicker on top; the roof blade BGN presently runs needs to be mandatory for all tracks in all NASCAR classes.

Pony cars aren't the answer. Monte Carlo, Charger, Thunderbird, Solara/Camry - those are what the cars need for badging.

As far as the Claw supertemplate and aero-matching go, I'm not sold on either, though aero-matching is basically what the cars evolved to anyway. If the cars can run wide open safely and the draft is there for passing (as it's supposed to be on most tracks), then they've got the equalizers they need.

And no to a shorter schedule. Nothing has ever been gained by reducing anything - Zippy is right about the absurdity of two-day race weekends; they've accomplished nothing; impounds have accomplished nothing, either. But the length of the schedule is not an area where money can be saved; on the contrary cutting the schedule cuts revenue streams for the sport.

The problem is not oversaturation, it's that NASCAR is racing in some demographics (California, Chicago, Atlanta, even Vegas; don't buy that they sell out because there are that many racefans in that area, it's a transient demographic) that are not racing demographics. What needs to change on the schedule is elimination of the Chase format (replaced with win-biased lap-leader-biased point system changes) and shuffling of some races to lessen travel - Fontana and Vegas should be latter March instead of February-early March; Phoenix's first race should be following Fontana-Vegas.

darned, dude, you've got way

darned, dude, you've got way too much on the ball to be sitting on the sidelines. maybe you ought to run for nascar president.

and give me a few moments to

and give me a few moments to digest all you've thrown out to consider.....i had to take a break to mow my yard before heading to chicago and got behind on checking the mail...
good points, good points....

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