As we look forward qualifying for the 2018 Daytona 500, it is helpful to review some of the changes coming in 2018 to the Cup series.
Chevy moves to the Camaro for 2018, retiring the odd Chevy SS. You know, the SS that really wasn’t the Chevy SS that we all grew up with. The younger audience had no idea what an SS was about and unless it showed up as some incredible Uber ride, they didn’t care one way or the other. While the Ford drivers are going to complain a lot this year, you might also hear some Chevy drivers complain as they work out any bugs in the Camaro. But since the cars are nearly identical except for the front fascia, don’t expect a lot of tweaking like in the good old days.
Speaking of the cars looking alike, the new Hawkeye system in tech will supposedly get cars through tech much faster and it will have the tolerances built in so it should cut down on cheating. Yawn, where is NASCAR without the cheating?
The cars will have a common radiator and front splitter so you can expect less downforce on the car in 2018. Remember how the drivers used to complain about too much downforce and then last year they started whining about lacking downforce? C’mon guys, make up your minds!
NASCAR is also mandating the number of fans in the wheel corners that are used to manipulate air under the cars. With the bodies being so closely monitored, the teams were looking for under the body aerodynamic tweaks to gain an advantage. NASCAR is again looking to eliminate creativity.
The cars will lose the superspeedway specific shocks and springs, so we’ll see if that makes any difference. They have also made changes to the ride height so the cars will become less likely to get airborne, and I think we can all get behind that move.
The teams will have just one engine to run for the entire Daytona qualifying and race process. If an engine has to be replaced, that team will have to go to the rear of the field.
Look for fewer over the wall pit crew members. The teams move from 6 to five now so expect some gaffes as the crews get used to that. Even though the teams have been practicing their choreography in the off season, you know that someone will have a hiccup in the heat of a race.
NASCAR is also moving to a standard air gun so no one will have any advantages in that area of the pit stop. Once again, NASCAR is legislating creativity out of the sport.
Missing this year will be Dale Earnhardt, Jr but Danica will have a ride with Premium Motorsports and sponsor Go Daddy. Tony Eury, Jr. will be her crew chief for the 500. Go Daddy will be her sponsor for the Indy 500 if she can find an owner willing to give her a shot at qualifying. Having money from a sponsor helps, but the Danica Double isn’t a sure thing yet.
As NASCAR attempts to limit technical creativity, they are putting more and more interest back on the drivers. There is hardly any reason to follow a manufacturer these days since the car is nearly an IROC car. With that said, there are still plenty of Toyota haters just because it is a Japanese company. Wake up folks, the Camry you buy was made in the US of A. If it weren’t for Toyota, there wouldn’t be a third manufacturer.
So back to the drivers. With the lack of manufacturer identity, a younger Uber audience that doesn’t celebrate the driving experience as much, a pretty boring on track product, it’s no wonder that NASCAR is pumping up a batch of young, hip, social media savvy drivers to try and have something to market to a new audience that couldn’t care less what brand of car they drive.
Veteran drivers may complain about the fact these drivers haven’t done much on track and none of them were competing for the title at Homestead and they are right. But you have to look at what NASCAR has to offer that is interesting right now. In spite of what you hear Chocolate Myers say on Sirius Radio, the races aren’t giving anyone but him what they want in a race week in and out.
But even with all of that, I am still looking forward to the Daytona 500. I hope you are too.