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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bristol Questions

What happens to the CoT in a crash?
If the February practice was any indicator, the slightest crashes will render the car wrecked. Just because you see a spike in sheet metal sales on eBay Monday morning does not mean that Sunday's race was wild and exciting. The other troubling thing is teams will race the same cars next week at Martinsville. Some of the smaller teams might not have a large fleet of cars built yet. What happens if one or more cars get wrecked within the same company? Crew chiefs have complained about how long it takes to repair the bodies of the cars. Say a smaller team like Hall of Fame Racing or Petty Enterprises dings multiple cars this weekend. It could be tough to

Will anyone be able to pass or just one long line?
Last August's race was with a car that everyone had essentially figured out and that was a parade. Granted that was more about self-preservation before the Chase, but it still stands. It will probably be worse this year. If the cars are too fragile to handle the normal bumping at Bristol, passing becomes even harder without the chrome horn. A handful of cars will find something that works and leave everyone else in the dust. With that said, don’t use
Bristol as an indicator of whether the CofT is a success or not.

Will everyone make it through inspection?
A brand new car with constantly evolving specs. A new “claw” that will test all the templates at once. Every part marked with an RFID. With so many new changes and my cynical nature, I’d say the chances are pretty good it’s going to be chaotic on Friday.

Who will be caught with their pants down?
Someone will. Everyone knew this date was coming. Some teams embraced the opportunities to test and others resisted. Given their track record on past rule changes, DEI is a likely suspect to really struggle. Ganassi also fits the profile, regardless of their recent gains on the speedway car. Evernham also tends to lag behind other teams; although once they do catch up they are a force. Ford is also handling the CoT for Roush, Yates and Wood Brothers. These teams tested less than some of the other top teams. This poses the obvious risk of falling behind the competition.

On the other hand, remember that Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne’s respective crew chiefs Robbie Reiser and Kenny Francis were suspended for the first four races. That means a lot of time in the shop to work on the Car of Tomorrow.

Can Toyota close the gap?
The last three weeks at speedway tracks
Toyota has struggled. It is not surprising considering they are competing against established teams that have spent years perfecting the current speedway car. With the new model, everyone started closer to the same point. The established teams still have more resources, historical notes and talent, but at least Toyota doesn’t have as large of a gap to close with the Car of Tomorrow.

Other Notes:
The Cal Ripkens of NASCAR are dropping quickly. Ricky Rudd held the longest streak of consecutive starts until he took all of 2006 off. Michael Waltrip had the longest active streak, spanning back to 1987 until he missed three races last year. Now the current leader is Mark Martin and his 621 race streak comes to an end this Sunday. After Sunday who are the next two drivers with the longest active streaks of 477 and 476 respectively? Answer below.

The Car of Tomorrow has plenty of nicknames: Co'T, Brick, Car of Yesterday Today, Butt Ugly, Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Grandma’s Car, Plow of Tomorrow. What are we supposed to call the current model? Surely there is a better name than Car of Right Now or CORN. A few suggestions: Speedway car. The anti-brick, The less-safe racecar, The one with a spoiler, The Hammock (a perfect foil for the COT), Old Reliable. Any suggestions?

Trivia Answer A. Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte

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