Car of Tomorrow coming to BMS in March

Dave Ongie • Feb 7, 2007 at 10:48 AM

Brett Bodine discusses the design for the Car of Tomorrow during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. Two major changes include an adjustable rear wing and front splitter. Photo by Erica Yoon.a


BRISTOL, Tenn. - So where were you in '82?

Darrell Waltrip probably remembers where he was on Aug. 28, 1982 - he was busy driving the No. 11 car to victory lane in the August Race at Bristol Motor Speedway in front of a sellout crowd of 30,000 fans.

Nearly 15 years later, no seat has gone unsold at BMS for a NASCAR Nextel Cup race, even with seating capacity swelling to nearly 160,000.

To put Bristol's sellout streak in perspective, consider that Cal Ripkin Jr. was just settling into his position in the Baltimore Orioles' starting lineup during August of 1982.

Bristol's streak will hit 50 races this March at the Food City 500. During that span, Ripkin surpassed Lou Gerhig's consecutive games played streak to become baseball's iron man, lost most of his hair, retired and was elected into baseball's Hall of Fame.

While a good eye at the plate and a sure set of hands in the field contributed to Ripkin's longevity, Bristol's draw has always been the desire of racing fans to witness something they haven't seen before.

With beating, banging, temper-tantrums and the occasional snowball fight a given, the racing action at BMS rarely disappoints.

But fans who file into the track this March can rest assured that they will see something nobody has ever seen before - 43 drivers racing door-to-door in the Car of Tomorrow.

With safety, competition and cost effectiveness in mind, NASCAR has overhauled Cup cars and plans to debut the Car of Tomorrow at Bristol this March.

The car will be used on short tracks and road courses this season and phased in at every race in the coming years.

With a wing on the back, a splitter on the front and a setup that puts the driver closer to the middle of the slightly boxier vehicle, the Car of Tomorrow has drawn its share of criticism early on.

Drivers, owners, crew chiefs and fans have expressed everything from outrage to skepticism.

Tony Stewart famously called the Car of Tomorrow "a flying brick" while many owners have questioned its cost-effectiveness and many fans are having a hard time getting over the wing.

But as everyone gets used to the change, Brett Bodine, NASCAR's Director of Costs and Research, is confident the guys in the garage and the folks in the grandstands will come around.

"We did this to improve safety for all of our drivers," Bodine said. "As a former driver, I welcomed all of that. Who wouldn't want to be safer in the race car?"

As for team owners, Bodine said the Car of Tomorrow will prove to be versatile and should save race teams money.

"We saw the Penske car test at Greenville Speedway, which is a half-mile short track, and a week later it was at Daytona running 191 mph laps," he said.

"If we can make (the cars) more universal, than we will have accomplished something that the owners have asked for."

Crew chiefs and drivers alike will also be happy to know the days of showing up at the race track with an unfixable car could be a thing of the past.

The rear wing and the front splitter will be adjustable, making aerodynamic problems a quick fix at the track.

"If you brought a car to the racetrack today that was aerodynamically wrong, you're stuck with it all weekend," Bodine said. "With the Car of Tomorrow, you're going to be able to adjust that car to what that driver thinks he needs and what the setup is calling for with the tire configuration or the condition of the race track."

Some teams are already starting to see the upside of the new car.

According to Bodine, a few team owners have asked about moving up the time-table and making the Car of Tomorrow the car of today at every track on the circuit.

"Now that we're getting farther into the rollout schedule, we're starting to hear that some teams are wanting to go all in in 2008," Bodine said. "We'll take that feedback and do what they want to do as far as what that schedule is."

Chris Carrier, the crew chief for Morgan-McClure Racing, is already seeing potential benefits for single-car teams.

The current means of trying to gain downforce or sideforce on the racetrack involves cutting up a $20,000 body.

It's heart-breaking to take a saw and cut them up," Carrier said. "Then you have to take the car to the wind tunnel to see if what you did worked. Lower resource teams have a tough time keeping up with that."

Carrier also believes the fans will be treated to more competitive racing when the teams get a handle on the new vehicles.

No one knows what will happen when the green flag falls at the Food City 500, but one thing is certain - there will be a full house on hand to find out.

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