NASCAR: Bring Back T-Rex and Experiment for All-Star Weekend


NASCAR announced Monday some minor changes to the cars for an experiment during the All Star race in Charlotte. Why not use the weekend for a massive test session and bring back the excitement?

The All-Star race in Charlotte, by whatever name they have called it, has lost much of its luster over the years. Some of the most exciting aspects left are the ones that do not happen every week. The two-lap qualifying or the no pit lane speed limit for it come to mind. Heat style races to get into the race put in this year like the Xfinity series is experimenting with now could be done in the effort to make the weekend more exciting.

Those of us old enough to remember the older versions of NASCAR’s all-star weekend remember a time when the tech inspection involved making sure there were four tires and safety equipment on the car. That was about it, NASCAR allowed the teams to experiment and push the limits on the cars. It was a fun time, it made you wonder what any team would show up with and do on the track.

A much younger Ray Evernham built a car for Jeff Gordon nicknamed T-Rex for the 1997 all-star race. That car has gone down in the annals of the sport with legendary Smokey Yunick’s 66 Chevelle. T-Rex was so advance that NASCAR reportedly told Evernham to never bring that car back to the track even though it met all of NASCAR’s rules at the time. It’s 2016 and they are still making television specials about those cars because NASCAR fans love it.

NASCAR could come out one month prior to the all-star race and announce a bare bones requirement list for the cars and let the engineers have some fun. Innovation comes from imagination, and allowing the teams to think outside the box could produce the next generation of cars. Right now the teams are trapped in such a tight rulebook with no testing there is little chance of a totally new concept in engineering to make it to the track.

There is nobody in the NASCAR R&D office working as hard as the team engineers to try and develop the next leap in the sport. If you allowed the teams to develop these experimental cars, then had them presented to NASCAR R&D after you could advance the sport by leaps and bounds. With the shorter time frame, the development time would not be too cost prohibitive.

There are so many areas where the drivers, teams and fans want to see changes the opportunity is enormous. There is the whole valiance versus splitter crowd. Imagine telling teams no splitter and side skirts. You have to run a valiance and have the body hang no lower than the lowest point on the rear axle. That would create an entire new aero package and allow it to be tested right on the track. Everyone would have the same time and tire to work with, no advantages for anyone.

As long as you do not give the teams too long to work the computer simulations, there could be a lot of fun to be had. Not too mention that the Friday race to get into the all star race would be a test session for the smaller teams and they might actually have an advantage. NASCAR is hesitant to make any large changes due to costs to the teams. These one offs could be an inexpensive way to experiment in public without adding travel and testing costs to teams.

What about the people in the “cut the spoiler off” camps lime myself. How fun would it be to watch if there were no spoiler on the back of the cars! It would be the craziest race you have ever seen with more than 800 horsepower to the rear tires with almost nothing pushing them down. Talk about a race totally in the drivers hands. There would be fans standing on their feet all race long as the drivers had the tails sticking out in Charlotte all night. It would put the cars back inside the design capabilities of the track and put on a show.

If you make the changes so drastic that it has no relation to the regular season cars, it would provide no advantage to anyone. It could also open the eyes to NASCAR about changes they could make that would produce better racing. There would of course be some duds, but one of my favorite Mythbusters sayings is “failure is always an option”. We have seen enough of those come from NASCAR in the past, see the rear wing, that we had to deal with for entire seasons.

NASCAR needs to do anything it can to get people talking about racing. Going off the deep end and letting the teams experiment and play would do just that. It could also answer the questions of the fans regarding what would happen if drastic changes were made. Who knows, NASCAR might also find something that changes the direction of the sport. With the sagging popularity in NASCAR right now, drastic thinking could finally turn the tide and get fans back in the stands.