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The verdict on NASCAR's new rear spoiler: downforce is good, and drivers want more

  Kyle Busch Monday at Texas: the racing is the easy part of the job; the rest of the week and all that marketing and promotion and tire testing...that's draining (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   No rest, no rest: Kyle Busch will among 14 Cup drivers testing Tuesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the July Brickyard 400, in what will likely also be yet another 'photo op' and media session to promote the sport....which NASCAR's promoters have being doing more heavily this spring than ever.
    And all this marketing stuff is coast-to-coast. For example, if Bruton Smith and John Cardinale don't have a sellout for their June race at Sonoma, just north of San Francisco, it won't be for lack of driver promotions. Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray was right there on the Hyde St cable car just hours after his win, and Kasey Kahne was at the ballpark just last week (while word was breaking back east about his signing a new contract with Rick Hendrick).
    Tony Stewart, who was part of Monday's big one that took out Jeff Gordon in the waning laps of the Texas 500, a race Gordon had been dominating, will have a press conference of his own this week to promote his annual charity dirt event, Prelude to the Dream, at Eldora, an event that typically brings out a dozen or so Cup stars to roll in the mud for a couple of hours mid-week, between tour stops.
    And then of course it's on to Talladega SuperSpeedway, Home of the Big One.....
    What to make of the NASCAR season so far?
    Wow! If you don't like the action so far (except maybe for the first couple hours at Phoenix), you're just not a sports fan.
    For whatever reason – 'Boys, have at it,' or sponsorship pressures, or what – these guys have been beating up on each other like nobody's business.
   In fact the infield hospital 'got a little backed up' treating the men who got banged up Monday in that late-race crash.
   And we haven't even gotten to Talladega or Richmond or Darlington, where typically some of the wildest action in this sport takes place.
   The men testing at Indy: Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Sam Hornish, Juan Pablo Montoya, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Robby Gordon, David Reutimann, Kevin Conway, Regan Smith, Scott Speed, and Max Papis.

    Monday here Jeff Burton, looking impressive at times, had a rough afternoon but made the most of it, recovering from a pit road penalty that stuck him at the back of the pack, and coming back to be leading at the final green. "Todd Berrier (his crew chief) made great calls, and I'm proud of the team for not giving up after getting penalized," Burton said.
    "We were leading at the right time....but when we went back racing, the tires were chattering and the car got tight and I hit the wall.
     "It's a tough pill to swallow, to finish 12th after leading with 12 to go. But we brought a fast Chevy and we'll continue to fight."
     Kyle Busch, third Monday after being overtaken by Johnson in the final miles, liked Dave Rogers' two-tire call at the end (Johnson took four):
      "It was definitely the right call,"  Busch said. "We probably had a 10th-place to 13th-place car.
     "I think I know what it was, and Dave too. So we can come back here in the fall with something a little different. What we had worked with the wing, but doesn't like  the (flat-blade) spoiler that much.
    "So we got a lot better than probably what we deserved.  Last week we didn't get what we deserved."
    There was some  brilliant driving in the final miles, despite that  bobble by Stewart in the crash (he had two new tires and was falling back, while Gordon had four new tires and was charging forward, when they tangled).
   "Junior made it three-wide through the middle, and I ducked down and pushed my teammate (Hamlin) clear into turn three," Busch said of the final sprint. 
    "I'm not sure what it is with this tire, that it lays down rubber like it does, but it seems like the outside lanes are horrible on restarts.  So you only have one corner (after a restart). Any time I went up there, I lost a half a second; so I was just a bottom-feeder all day."

    The reviews of the new flat-blade rear spoiler were that it made the handling a little better but that otherwise it was a non-issue. 
    "It didn't drive any different for me," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.
    "The spoiler is better. We just need to get a little more downforce on these cars. It would be pretty awesome if we could get a little more nose downforce."
    "It was a different race, for sure," Busch said. "The car seemed a lot more consistent, a lot more drivable. 
    "So it feels like the guys are going for broke even more than what we used to. With the old car, the way the noses and tails were (not matched up) you couldn't bump anybody."
    Now the bumpers are matched, the cars seem more stable, "and a lot of guys are taking advantage of it," Busch said.
     Earnhardt had one of his best long runs of the season and appeared to be a contender much of the afternoon.
    "We have a lot to work on, still," Earnhardt said after finishing eighth. "At the end I just couldn't hold them off.
    "I tried to pinch everybody down, and they'd just run me up into the fence off the corner...and I drove it in the fence once myself.
    "We're getting better, but we still have a lot to work on."
     Again the finish was chaos, and the finishing order had little to do generally with who ran the best throughout the race. "We run 450 miles....and then settle it in a bunch of mess there at the end.
     "It is kind of stupid. But that's way it went down."
     Which sets up a rather scary late-race scenario for Sunday's Talladega 500.

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   Dale Earnhardt Jr. (inside) had a pretty good Monday at Texas, finishing eighth (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Step In The Right Direction

They've added downforce. Now they need to add more, make these tires so durable that we go back to the days of no-tires-on-pitstops a la 2001-2 and Hoosier-era Geoff Bodine/Neil Bonnett running 500 milers on ten tires, and make dirty air pull cars forward instead of impede them again - i.e. get the draft back on the intermediates like "back in the day."

"The drivers were all saying, 'Man, I can't believe what the draft's doing here.'" - Ernie Irvan during 1995 World 600, Charlotte.

maybe if we just got rid of

maybe if we just got rid of these stupid bump stops and get these front bumpers a little higher in the air....or, hey, how about just junking the cup cars and letting the cup drivers race the trucks, which seem to have a very nice aero package....

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