Kligerman: Here’s an All-Star idea -- go back to being truly stock and showcase the showroom
Ever since I can remember, I have loved cars.
My mom once said I was barely out of the delivery room before I had a model car in my hands, and no one’s really sure where the car came from.
Through my childhood, the fandom would grow to an outright obsession. Culminating at the age of 9, when we got cable and I found Speedvision. A cable TV channel dedicated to racing and cars.
I was hooked. Not only had I found a channel about cars, but I discovered a sport that used cars.
If you could have bottled my sense of euphoric, enchanted and full-throttle fate, it wouldn’t just sell. It would solve first-world depression.
Which brings me to this year’s All-Star Race, an event that I see fighting its own feelings of dread and depression.
It made its debut in 1985 as an additional “fun race” to drum up more exposure for the sport’s biggest early investor, R.J. Reynolds, and its Winston cigarette brand.
It always has been a race about winning because that is what pays – and it does pay handsomely. This year’s winner will pocket an unadulterated and fully taxed $1 million.
But that has been its selling point for too long.
Since 1985, it has undergone an umpteen amount of changes. Over the past 32 years, it has had 13 race formats. And I guarantee there is no one on this planet who can remember what each of those 13 formats were. If they do, shall I suggest seeing the sun sometime?
And this year, to celebrate the newest Monster backer in the sport’s storied history, we get a new format that pays tribute to the 1992 format. Which isn’t to be confused with the 1998–2001 format that had the same segment lengths.
But there is another addition that has me quite excited.
Yes, Goodyear and NASCAR have collaborated to offer two options of tires in this race. Which I actually am quite excited about and foresee its introduction into the points races as a tantalizing future.
This is all swell and delightful.
But none of it makes me feel like the day I found Speedvision.
Therefore, in an era in which it seems racing worldwide is unopposed to breaking the molds of the staid and repressive mid-aughts, I have an idea that could be just the thing this All-Star Race needs, and it won’t be found on a psychiatrist’s prescription sheet.
The cure is in the very thing that got me into this sport in the first place: Cars.
I am talking stock cars. The cure for the All-Star Race is to remove the very devices we use each and every weekend. To take the drivers and teams out of their comfort zones and learn who is truly the All-Star of driving stock cars?
Imagine for one day a year the very best drivers in the world racing the same cars that the fans might arrive to the track in via an Uber driver.
Let’s not pay tribute to 1992 with a format. Let’s pay tribute to the sport’s roots and its foundation with the very premise Bill France built it upon.
“Common men in common cars could appeal to common folk en masse.”
Now before you start poking holes in the idea with words such as safety, fairness and equivalency formulas … without getting too technical, I have an answer for most of your questions.
Let’s start with the cars.
The Ford teams obviously will use the 2017 Ford Fusion, specifically the Ford Fusion Sport model, which will be the most powerful of the bunch. Its twin-turbocharged V6 produces 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, but it also weighs the same as a small planet.
Which should line up nicely with the yet-to-be released 2018 Toyota Camry. Expected to carry over the same V6 of the 2017 Toyota Camry XSE, it will have roughly 268 HP. Therefore if it’s anything like its predecessor, it will weigh considerably less than the Ford Fusion. Which means it might be at a disadvantage in raw speed but could make that up in the corners.
This brings us to the Chevy teams. The current Chevy SS is a muscle car, through and through. With a diabolically powerful V8 and performance design, we simply could not allow it to compete.
The SS also has been discontinued, and in 2018, Chevy will need to have a new car. The current Malibu looks to be a great fit with a turbocharged 4-cylinder pumping out 250 HP, which would be the lowest of the three. It also comes in the lightest at a whopping 800 pounds less than the Ford Fusion.
So without any upgrades or changes, we clearly have a closely aligned field of cars.
Now how would we make them safe enough and keep the cars close to stock?
We could have the NASCAR R&D center and a couple engineers from the manufacturers figure out how to put our current carbon fiber seats and other safety technology into the cars. Keep everything but the driver’s area as stock as possible for weight reasons and validity.
Obviously we would remove the glass windows and replace them with the current material used for the race cars.
Next we would have a road tire designated by Goodyear to put on all three cars, and boom: We are off to the races.
But you might ask, “Can we possibly race these cars around the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway oval?” Well I think we could, and it probably would be amazing, but it could be a bit more dangerous than any of us would like to admit.
So in an effort to seem even remotely sane, we could race Charlotte’s quarter-mile infield oval, where the speeds will be considerably slower. And then hold a second race on a version of the road course.
I think no matter what, there should be two races: One on an oval, one on a road course of some sort. Maybe even a street course in Uptown Charlotte around the Hall of Fame? The options potentially are endless.
Lastly, I know at least one keen reader probably is ripping out their hair screaming “COST!”
Well, I think the manufacturers could find a way to make this financially viable. Add in there would not be any tuning or engineering. The only thing you can change on the cars? Tire pressures.
So you see, I have it all figured out. The manufacturers win by getting their current technology one big event annually in the public eye. The drivers will win by having an All-Star event that is crazy enough to simply be fun. And the fans win with an event that truly would be one of a kind.
Sadly, we all know this will not happen. Putting aside the funding or the complexities, a massive problem is that in the coming years the road cars that birthed the NASCAR genre will be engulfed by computer-controlled self-driving features.
These would have to be shut off or removed to make this concept work, which would cause the marketing whizzes to have a coronary. Thus, there is no way in this modern world that this would come to fruition.
Which is a shame, as this race could use a boost to its stock. And current stock cars might just be the answers.