This time last year, NASCAR was adamant that it would make no changes to the current Cup car -- formerly known as the Car of Tomorrow -- despite the perception that the car was unsightly and resulted in poor racing. The sanctioning body was thus criticized -- to an extent, rightfully so -- for not listening to its shrinking fanbase.
Somewhere along the way, though, things changed. NASCAR implemented the double-file restart midway through the season, spicing up races that were usually as flavorful as a slice of old-style Domino's pizza. NASCAR even held a town hall meeting with drivers and teams, where ideas to improve competition were discussed.
Now comes word that, at some point this season, NASCAR will replace the rear wing on the current Cup car and replace it with a spoiler -- similar to what was on the last generation car model. Timetables aren't definite right now -- some approximations have the spoiler making its return in Martinsville at the end of March, others at Bristol.
NASCAR will test the spoiler March 23-24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
For reference, here is the current Cup car with the rear wing:
Sprint Cup Series director Jon Darby informed teams of the change on Friday in an internal memo, saying the spoiler will replicate the downforce and balance that is being produced on the current car. Some speculate the spoiler would do a better job of keeping cars on the ground than the rear wing -- which is blamed to a degree for the horrific crash involving Carl Edwards last April at Talladega.
You know, this one:
To be honest, I'm not sure how the spoiler will affect things; if I'm NASCAR, I also take a hard look at the bump stops and the front splitter. There are logistics to consider with the re-introduction of the spoiler -- which is why the change isn't being made in time for the Daytona 500. Chances are, any changes resulting from this change won't be immediate, but I think it is a good first step in the right direction.
Not just because the on-track product might be better -- NASCAR is also considering relaxing bump-drafting rules at Daytona and Talladega, as well as a thorough examination of the yellow-line rule -- but because the sanctioning body is listening the competitors and the fans. In the span of a year, NASCAR has gone from tone-deaf to willing to tweak things here and there in an effort to spice up races.
Maybe it was the low TV ratings, maybe it was the dip in attendance. Maybe it was the fact that Jimmie Johnson has turned the Chase into a mockery with his dominance to the tune of four straight series titles. Whatever the reason, NASCAR is listening, and I think the sport will be better off for it, in 2010 and beyond.
I can't wait for Daytona.