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Now about some of these new NASCAR rules changes......we have a few objections

  The newly-mandated refueling cans: too much technology, too expensive, too problem-filled? Again, why the change? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern



    NASCAR has made several significant rules changes for this season….and some of those rules changes at the moment appear misguided, or at least not working quite as anticipated.
    Not just misguided but also confusing.
    Not just misguided and confusing but expensive too.

    The operative phrase to consider here is 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'
   And perhaps the corollary, 'If it is needs fixing, fix it now. Don't hem-haw about it.'

   Point one: The new gas refueling system.
   Point two: The new limit on drivers allowing them to earn points in only one of the three national touring series, Cup, Nationwide, Truck.
   Point three: The new Sprint Cup championship points system.

    The old gas refueling system, used for decades, has been perfectly fine. NASCAR may have a lot of issues, but refueling these cars safely and efficiently hasn't been one of them.
    Not until this year, when, for whatever reasons, NASCAR decided to make car owner buy expensive new refueling rigs. Jack Roush says his operation just spent over $300,000 on new cans.
    NASCAR cutting costs?
    This new 'closed loop system,' designed to keep fuel from spilling, and eliminating the 'catch can' man almost seems like some Rube Goldberg device.
    Why change?
    If it aint' broke, don't fix it.


The new gas cans look a little Rube Goldberg. Thought NASCAR was entertainment, not some engineering project. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    But now teams have been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on these new gas cans…..and for what – to make stock car racing more ecologically pretty, by keeping excess gas fumes out of the air, by eliminating spillage, by eliminating the (decidedly low-tech) job of catch-can man?
   Not only is all that pretty flimsy reason for this new gas system stuff, not only is it costly, it's forced crew chiefs to rethink pit stops in general and in particular the physical attributes of the gas man. The nozzle has to be precisely aligned to the car, more so than before; and the center of gravity of the cans is taller and more awkward, so gas men need to be taller.
    Good question.
    Greg Biffle and crew chief Greg Erwin are certainly questioning the whole rigmarole now, after losing any shot at winning Sunday's Vegas 400 with a couple of refueling bobbles. Biffle was running third when he ran out under green on the backstretch. Another issue, clearly, is it's more difficult now to tell just how much fuel gets in the car.
    NASCAR and its teams have a lot of problems to deal with, in these tough economics times, but forcing teams to spend extra bucks on stuff like isn't very smart.
    But NASCAR is now going to force teams to buy special fuel injection systems from a specially selected (by NASCAR) company, at a price yet to be determined.
    To lure another car maker like Volkswagen into the sport perhaps by offering a more high-tech image? VW just announced it wasn't interested in NASCAR.
    Maybe somebody in Daytona should be looking the number of teams on these entry lists and notice short fields already this season, and it's only March.

    Kyle Busch's winning Truck at Darlington....only this time with Kasey Kahne at the wheel (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   Now, consider Kasey Kahne's clear-cut victory in Saturday night's Truck race in Darlington, S.C. Kahne, driving Kyle Busch's Truck. 
  Busch himself wins just about every Truck race he enters, in part because there is little competition on that tour. Busch just ripped the Truck field at Phoenix two weeks ago.
   And Michael Waltrip (albeit it with an oddly broken rear spoiler) won the Daytona Truck opener.
   What do Kahne, Busch and Waltrip have in common, aside from the wins? None of them earned any Truck series points.
   So who's leading the Truck championship? Matt Crafton, with a fourth place finish his best so far. Followed by Cole Whitt and Timothy Peters. Not exactly sports headliners or household names.
   Consider Mark Martin's dramatic victory in Las Vegas' Nationwide race, when defending tour champ blew a tire with two to go. And consider Tony Stewart's season-opening Nationwide win at Daytona….and Kyle Busch's Nationwide win at Phoenix.
   Again, none of those three winners received points.
   Five of the top-7 finishers at Vegas were Sprint Cup regulars; five of the top-6 finishers at Phoenix were Cup drivers; and eight of the top-12 finishers at Daytona were Cup drivers.
   So who's leading the Nationwide championship? Reed Sorenson, with a season-best fifth so far. Followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jason Leffler.
   What we have here are two major NASCAR tours with curiously mixed marketing game plans. And just check all the clean white rear quarterpanels, where sponsor logos are supposed to be.


   NASCAR's defending Truck tour champion Todd 'Onion' Bodine: Only enough sponsorship for another month or so. U.S. economic slump continues to hurt stock car teams. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   The economic problems are even deeper on the Truck side, where even defending tour champion Todd Bodine is running out of money already.
   Enough money to run the full season?
   "No, we’re not even close to set," Bodine says. "Tire Kingdom, I think they’re going to do four more. Valvoline's going to do a couple. And now we have one with Georgia Boot. 
   "But we've still got a lot of races we need to get sponsorship for.
    "It's going to get better. I keep saying that, since the end of last year. I think by the end of the season you're going to see a lot of things happening with sponsors, and a lot of corporations are going to start cutting loose with some of their marketing money and swing it our way."

   What? Clean-shaven Tony Stewart? The NASCAR tour leader had the best car at Las Vegas, and he and rival Kurt Busch have the best finishing records so far. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Another thing that NASCAR didn't need to fix, but did anyway -- NASCAR's Sprint Cup championship points system.
   It wasn't broken. Why change it? After all, three men went into final race last season with a shot to win the title. That's one of the best, tightest finishes in 20 years.
   Change the points to simply things?
  Well consider this: That new points system is based on a 43-point/42-point/41-point (and down) setup, with a few bonus points, for the 43-car fields.
  However at Daytona the final scoring for the top three was 0-42-41. (Because winner Trevor Bayne signed up for points in Nationwide rather than Cup).
  The final scoring at Phoenix was 48-43-42.
  The final scoring at Las Vegas, 47-44-42.
  Maybe the new system will work, but it will certainly be debated the rest of the season, as weird as it is, and as unclear what it really accomplishes. What is the point again? To simply things?
   One of the big impacts seems to be that a bad points day is now a really bad points day. We'll have to see if Kevin Harvick can make up all this lost ground.

   NASCAR's new, controversial Cup points system, which has seemed a bad idea ever since it was announced in late January, is at least shaking things up: consider that two Hendrick-engineering teams are in the top-five, but neither is from Rick Hendrick's own four-team camp.
   Rather it's Tony Stewart and hard-driving Ryan Newman up there.
    And the top Rick Hendrick man – none other than Dale Earnhardt Jr.
   Well, maybe this new system is a Daytona ploy after all to get someone other than Jimmie Johnson to win the championship….

    Consider this: only four of the men in the top-12 last spring coming out of Las Vegas are in the top-12 this spring. Missing – Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, David Reutimann, and Kyle Busch. And Jimmie Johnson only makes the cut at 12th, instead of tied with Kasey Kahne for that spot, by virtue of his third-place finish at Phoenix to Kahne's sixth.

   But let's then consider the simplest way to analyze things: judging drivers on how well they've actually finished these first three races:
    Averaging the finishes, the current Sprint Cup standings would look like this:
    1  Tony Stewart               7.3      (edging Busch via a second-place finish at Las Vegas)
    2  Kurt Busch                  7.3
    3  Juan Pablo Montoya     9.3
    4  Carl Edwards              10.3    (edging Newman via a win at Las Vegas)
    5  Ryan Newman            10.3
    6  Paul Menard               12.6
    7  Denny Hamlin             13       (edging Allmendinger via a best-7th at Vegas to AJ's best-9th at Phoenix)
    8  AJ Allmendinger          13
    9  Mark Martin                13.6
    10 Dale Earnhardt Jr.       14
    11  Jimmie Johnson         15.3
    12  Kyle Busch               16


Kurt Busch: Another championship in the coming? If he can keep playing the game with savvy. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Brian France doesn't seem particularly concerned about the odd shape of the championship standings under his new 43-42-41 system. He likes the fact is is changing the dynamic, although in some still unclear ways. In fact he seems to think that it could prod some of the top drivers who may struggle through the first few months of the season (like Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick perhaps) to get hard and heavy after those two 'wild card' spots determined by wins "if you don't happen to have the perfect top-10 performance in the first 26.
    "I'm actually happy to hear people complaining about that. It means it's working."

 And how about ageless Morgan Shepherd! At Las Vegas, while in a shopping lot, he spotted three crooks escaping with loot, and he gave chase, capturing one and holding him for the cops. 'I dont wanna go to jail,' the suspect pleaded. 'Then you shouldn't have been stealing,' the Hickory, NC, legend, now 69, replied. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

So, Brian France's sign of

So, Brian France's sign of success is that he hears people complaining? How twisted is that? I guess that means all his 'better ideas' are working because I certainly hear a lot of complaining. Has Nascar done anything yet that actually has saved any race team even a dime? How much does it cost them to have every chassis inspected for every race? Or re-inspected if it gets bumped around in a race? How much of that money goes directly to Nascar and BZF's wallet? Does he really think that having a Nationwide champion with no wins is a good thing? Isn't that happening in Cup what lead to his 'brilliant' idea of having a not-a-playoff in a series where every team competes against every other team every week? Are we expected to take this guy seriously?

the problem with nascar's

the problem with nascar's 'cost-cutting' attempts is two-fold: first, the four or five heavyweight car owners in the sport have a decided interest in keeping new rivals from coming into the game, so it's in their interest to keep things as expensive and wacky as possible. would YOU want to sit down at this poker table? I mean, really. think about that. second, it's also in nascar's own self interest to keep newcomers out, because they like to play the game with the table-mates they know and can control. Nascar doesn't want any hot-shot new guy rolling into town and shaking up things.
the bottom line, though, is that this whole process hurts the men who have been the sport's bread and butter for so many years. will there ever be another alan kulwicki? not the way NASCAR runs things today. that's sad. This is really a very simple sport, same old tracks we've run on for years and years. When the Woods and the Pettys and Ricky Rudds and Bill Elliotts and guys like that can't make a go of it, there's something very wrong here. in my opinion.

France won't be happy until

France won't be happy until every aspect of every race is a crapshoot. Someone needs to tell him that letting luck decide the winner is not the same thing as parity. At least not in real sports.

well, i do give Brian credit

well, i do give Brian credit for being game to try things. But i take away points for his unwillingness to say 'oops, okay, that didn't work, let's try something else.

So I'm just gonna throw this

So I'm just gonna throw this out there.. the chamionship was kinda broke. Do u even watch nascar??? JIMMIE WON THE PAST 5 HOW IS THAT NOT BROKE?

okay, dude, i have to agree

okay, dude, i have to agree with you on that. five is too many, yes. but remember that's because of the 10-race chase, and the tracks included; nascar should change up those 10 tracks. or why not just drop the chase period; like bruton smith says, it's an idea whose time has come and gone.

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The new fuel containing 15%

The new fuel containing 15% ethanol is the reason for the reengineered fueling can. Ethanol is hydroscopic (water loving, i.e. it will suck moisture out of the air) and excess water in the gasoline mixture is not a good thing. Perhaps we should go to the root of the problem and ask why we had to have the Public Relations requirement to change to the ethanol/gasoline mixture. Oh, yes. Money pumped in from the ethanol producers and succumbing to the whining of the environmentalists.
I'm all for saving the environment but this is more PR than reality. Plus, vehicles have worse fuel mileage with ethanol than gasoline and the total "carbon footprint" doesn't add up to saving energy when you calculate the energy involved to grow the corn, convert it into ethanol and then get less energy conversion during combustion to power an engine.
P.S. I'm a chemist but also a car lover and race fan whose dad took him to his first race in 1960. (dirt at Spartanburg SC).

oh, certainly, and good

oh, certainly, and good observation, i should have included.
and i agree this ethanol corn thing is really an old story (which nascar first shot down, remember, when Chevrolet several years ago tried to get nascar to okay E-85 for the Truck series). back then Nascar argued, logically, about the false 'energy savings' you mention. in fact the price of corn this season is likely to zoom up in price like nobody's business when the chinese start on their buying spree. it's nice for Nascar to try to help the kansas and iowa corn farmers with this american ethanol, but i dont think they'll be worried a bit when the chinese buying orders come in. the brazilian ethanol angle is more logical, i believe. (and why isn't nascar working the indy-car's randy barnard on any of this anyway....i'm getting very suspicious about nascar's anti-indy-car attitude. counter productive in too many ways, in my opinion.
and you're right, E-15 hurts gas mileage.
hey, i just realized now (the hydroscopic angle) why my lawnmower was so hard to start the other day -- last fall's gasoline in the can was essentially water-logged. thanks for the tip....

Mike, It seems to me that


It seems to me that they now spill just as much fuel as they did with the old cans. Does that spilled fuel not have fumes to catch? I think the new cans are a farce! I do like eliminating the catch can man from the rear but they could have moved the overflow to the left side and used old can for filling. What are the upsides to the new can? Love your Nascar opinions!


Atlanta, GA

well, one upside to the new

well, one upside to the new fuel cans is that somebody is making a bunch of money by making them. lol
sure, they're spilling as much or more fuel now than ever, and the cans just look silly, if you ask me. nascar will need some seven-footers to get the maxiumum dump out out of them. sometimes i dont think these guys think everything through.
it's just PR. and pretty weak at that. imho

Mike,check back when NASCAR

Mike,check back when NASCAR hired Brett Bodine. At the time he was hired,(I know he drives the pace car), he was supposed to be heading up cost containment for the owners. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't he go belly-up with his own team, running from creditors as if his hair was on fire while being sued for non payment of bills ?. It brings to mind a phrase; stupid is as stupid does and in NASCAR's world ignorance is bliss.

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