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It's NASCAR vs the NFL now, and stock car guys need to crank it up: Maybe 'Tim Brewer Unleashed'

   Tim Brewer, ex-championship crew chief, now TV commentator, knows all the tech tricks in the sport. Maybe ABC needs to let him start telling some of the real stories from behind-the-scenes...(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Tim Brewer, one of the sport's winningest crew chiefs, perhaps the Chad Knaus of his time, was warming up Saturday afternoon in the ESPN/ABC tech shop hauler for his Saturday night gig in the Chevy Rock&Roll 400 last weekend, fiddling with all those expensive race car parts and pieces he has assembled for those 30-second race night drop-in bits of technicalese.
   And he was still grumbling over losing the 1979 Daytona 500, when he was running Cale Yarborough's three-time NASCAR championship team for legendary Junior Johnson and going for a fourth straight title. "We came from three laps down that day….and then on the last lap we did that slide for life….
   "Man, if we'd have won Daytona, we'd have had enough momentum to go on and win a fourth straight championship, doncha think?"
   Brewer Unleashed would be an interesting sports documentary, to say the least. Of course he'd probably have to find a very deserted island to move to afterwards….
   But Brewer – who was Richard Childress' first crew chief, and the one-man crew himself, back when the veteran car owner was just getting started in this sport – is a good guy to bounce ideas off of.
   Maybe NASCAR officials need to listen more closely.
    Because this is the view from the TV icebox: this is what NASCAR and ABC/ESPN are up against this fall – the NFL Monday Night Football double-header a few days ago attracted two huge TV audiences. The New England-Buffalo game pulled a 10.3, meaning some 14 million viewers; and San Diego-Oakland pulled an 8.9 rating, meaning nearly 12 million viewers.
   Yes, the NFL is the 800-pound gorilla of American sports, and NASCAR has to play around that.
   But pie-throwing in New York City isn't the answer.
   Maybe NASCAR PR execs should have run these guys through the Boston market…which happens to be only about 90 minutes south of this track. A Friday night at Chili's, just around the corner from New Hampshire Motor Speedway, found the crowd – and the workers – all sporting Red Sox gear…..not even Roush-Fenway Red Sox gear, much less straight NASCAR stuff.
   And neither is starting the championship chase in the middle of September, just as the NFL and college football are coming out of the box.
   NASCAR execs, if they want stronger TV ratings, need to consider a few changes:
   First, kick off the chase Labor Day weekend. Get a jump on the competition.
   Second, reconsider the tracks in the chase, and put the best ones in there.
   Third, open up testing again, at the real NASCAR Cup tour tracks, with the real racing Goodyears. Teams are flying around the county to secret locations to test – the ones that have money to do that. We just don't know who, where or when. But clearly this testing ban has outlived its usefulness. Joey Logano, for example, has been seriously handicapped by this testing ban; and if Danica Patrick comes in next year, unless the ban is scrapped, she too will be handicapped unfairly.
   And then there's this car-of-tomorrow…..which has sorely needed tweaking ever since it was introduced.
   NASCAR was to have a meeting with crew chiefs here over the weekend, and it's looking like there might be some significant changes coming in Cup…somewhere down the road. Better sooner than later. More street-car design cues….long needed. 
    But then NASCAR has so far had trouble getting Detroit to stay involved in Trucks and Nationwide racing, and trouble getting Nationwide teams interested in switching to the proposed new Nationwide car-of-tomorrow (which was first set to debut sometime this year, and then put off and put off again, and now may not get on a track until next summer).
   NASCAR needs to give Detroit more leeway with these car bodies, in Cup as well as Nationwide. Common template cars are a concept that needs changing.
    Just do it.
    And consider this: one of Rick Hendrick's apparent technical edges this season is curious: his men pumping up the cooling system to maybe 50 PSI, to improve engine cooling…in order to make the cars handle better in the corner by being able to seal off the nose more and give the car more aerodynamic down force on the nose.
    Great idea, certainly. But instead of running a standard $1200 radiator, all that PSI requires teams to use special $15,000 radiators. Now how cost-cutting is that?
    And if the problem is an aerodynamic issue – getting the car to turn into the corner at 180 or 200 mph or 210 or whatever – shouldn't the solution logically be aerodynamic? Lengthen the nose two inches, for more downforce. Give crews two more inches of shock travel in the nose. Get rid of  bump stops….
   A $15,000 trick radiator? How many little guys can afford that?
   So here's Tim Brewer in his high-tech TV trailer, with all his years of expertise, and all his contacts (he was the first man to do the cambered rear axle, remember, and nearly won the 1992 championship with it), getting 30-second bites whenever somebody drops a valve or cuts a tire.
   Maybe ABC/ESPN moguls should unleash this pit bull and let him cut to the chase on some of these issues.
   But maybe that wouldn't be politically correct….
   So Brewer dresses up neatly for the cameras, puts together quick tech hits for race viewers, and leaves most of his colorful historical bits and hard-core technical analysis over in the corner somewhere, in a box.
   Yet in some of those quiet moments between bits, when he's got time to reminisce, Brewer can come across as wild as Jay Leno on a good night. Why can't TV go for the gusto here?
   Brewer, back in the day when tricks ruled the sport, had a big, big bag of tricks. And when his car was once found with a 'big' engine, well, he had to serve a then-unheard-of four week suspension.
   He's been there, done that, and knows what's really going on.
   TV and NASCAR too may be remiss in not using all this.
   Remember that 800-pound gorilla in the ring this fall….
   Now of course NASCAR executives have tried to polish the sport so much that they've pretty much polished the color right out of it. They've added so many rules and body templates and this and that, and the sport doesn't always seem the better for it.
    Take the car-of-tomorrow, which, even now some two years into its run on the Cup tour, is still too much of a handful for most drivers to race, except in short spurts. Strip the decals and colors off, and every car here looks almost identical.
    Perhaps NASCAR's Cup officials could take a page from NASCAR's Grand-Am officials and lighten up, and open things up.
    Now on some tracks this new race car seems to work pretty well; at other tracks, it doesn't, like California's Auto Club Speedway. Why? Too much horsepower – 850-plus, on pretty darned small tires. Too little front downforce too.
    But owners insisted, back when they had a voice in how to introduce this new model, that they wanted NASCAR to not fiddle with the rules, so they could learn to play with it themselves. And NASCAR execs have kept to that, even though drivers still complain.
   Ironically, NASCAR, in the new Nationwide car-of-tomorrow (with a debut still unsettled), has addressed some of the issues drivers have had about the Cup car.
   Want better Cup racing right now? Brewer has a few suggestions:
    "Open up the front grill, to 300 square inches, and no tape.
    "Take out the right-side window.
    "Widen the fenders."
    Maybe take some horsepower out from under the hood.
    And maybe get some more feisty TV reporting…..





Commending NASCAR is not

Commending NASCAR is not something I do often, but I so commend them for not fiddling with the rules during the season. It's something they used to do all the time, and it very well could have cost a few drivers a title and/or more victories. Make a set of rules, announce them in late November or early December, give them time to build cars and test them out, and don't screw with them until the next season. The ONLY time the rules should be messes with is if there is a safety issue to address. From a competition standpoint, handicapping teams with rule changes is wrong. NASCAR used to do that. It's akin to making Adrian Peterson wear ankle weights because he's too good, or making Peyton Manning throw left-handed. Oh, and since I'm using NFL references, having boring tracks as part of the Chase is the best way in the world to get people to watch NFL games. Loudon? Yawn. Kansas? Yawn. California? Yawn. Homestead? Double yawn. That's 40% of your venues that usually produce snoozer events. While Texas and Charlotte aren't overly exciting either, they are better than the others mentioned. The NFL is vastly superior to all other sports now because they have created great competitive balance. Fans of every team know that if their team is properly manages that they too can see their team play in the big game. NASCAR still needs to work on that. What's the answer? Cost cutting was a good start. Here are some others: No veteran Cup drivers in the Nationwide or truck races; Open testing on Thursday's before the race for anyone who wanted extra track time; Recruit 2-3 more manufacturers to get some factory support for the second half of the field because those guys don't have factory backing.

Listen to people like Tim Brewer to help make the racing better through improved rule changes for the cars. Make it better by improving the show. Qualiying races instead of single car time trials. Shorten the races and run a regional series or truck series race so the fans still get their money's worth. NASCAR is so intent on being the boss that they don't listen to the people who can help make their racing better.

Very good point about not

Very good point about not changing the rules during the game.

I also really like your idea of shortening the races and adding regional or truck races. It keeps the sport TV friendly and gives the fans at the track a full-day experience.

Maybe the Evil Empire should

Maybe the Evil Empire should try to improve its broadcasts, like letting the guys in the booth look out the window and describe what's happening on the track rather than what the guys in the truck think should be on the screen. Oh I forgot, EESPN knows all and cannot be criticized.

I could not agree more with

I could not agree more with your comments about letting Brewer open up. In fact that goes for everyone in and around the sport. Let Rusty loose, too. Let the announcers criticize drivers and officials when they do wrong. Let drivers argue about driving tactics. Let them really celebrate their successes. Bring back the personalities. Remember when NASCAR squashed Harvick and Stewart a couple years ago. Now no one dares speak against NASCAR in any harsh terms.

Give the cars personality, too. Let the factories tweak the sheet metal so fans can tell a Chevy from a Dodge etc. just by looking at a silhouette. Give the engineers and teams some leeway to make innovations. Definitely open up testing again.

Part of the allure of the NFL is the drama and personal conflicts involved in the sport. NASCAR needs to bring back the old-time rivalries and grit that made it great.

The best thing for NASCAR to

The best thing for NASCAR to do....scrap the Chase totally.

Can't quite imagine spending

Can't quite imagine spending $15,000 on radiators of all things.

how about $6,000 for an

how about $6,000 for an alternator? high-tech, heat-resistant. This sport has parts and pieces way overpriced. and i dont think arca dudes are going to pay much for used stuff.

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