What Made American Cars Great? NASCAR

Cory HartleyCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2009

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 17:  Bobby Labonte, driver of the #96 Ask.com Ford, leads a line of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on October 17, 2009 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

    With the fall of the three big American car companys, it made me look back and wonder what made them great. My answer NASCAR.

    When NASCAR was still in its beginings all the drivers drove the best American cars money good buy. Teams would get cars from the dealerships, add the biggest engines, tune them up, and take them to the track. During those times people not only had their loyalties with there favorite driver, but more importantly with their favorite manufactuer. When winning drivers swiched to a different car people almost held it against them until they started to win, then they swiched as well. This also enabled for the manufactuers to do a great deal of R&D for there cars they sold to the public. With this came great advances in car durability and preformance. When a persons favorite driver won, the public wanted to have the same options in their everyday car. All of this sold cars and options which in turn made the big three car companys who they were today.

     As NASCAR changed its rules to even out the cars more people followed the drivers and less people cared about what they drove. This also limited the amount of R&D that could be done on the race track and forced manufactuers to do more of it themselves. You could say that was the start of the down fall of American car companys. With less time and more money needed by the manufactuers, the buck got passed on to the consumer.

     Then with the gas prices rising during the 70's and 80's more people wanted economical vechicals for their everyday drivers. Enter the foreign manufactuers with their gas sipping vechicals. As NASCAR moved farther and farther from their glory days the more and more the American companys suffered. While they still made money it wasnt anywhere close to what they could have been making if NASCAR hadnt changed its rules to make all the cars even.

     Soon enough NASCAR was basically the same car bodies, with small differences, covered with decals so you knew what car was what. Even though none of these cars were anywhere close to what the public could buy from the dealership, people still watched and NASCAR began to grow into what it is today. This further distanced itself from the actual cars in the dealerships and further distanced itself from important advances that were brought to the track only after the manufactuers developed them in the lab.

     Enter the Car of Tomorrow...   With this rule change NASCAR basically said we dont need any of the manufactuers and we will do it all ourselfs. While this was good for NASCAR this was the straw that broke the backs of the great American car companys. Sure they say they drive for a particular company but this is mostly for advertising and less about what was developed by the manufactuers. So with out the strong hold of the car manufactuers NASCAR was allowed to bring in foreign companys and foreign dollars to advance the sport. Again great for NASCAR but another step back for American cars.

    So where does all this lead us too? Basically the big American car companys lost their racing devlopment while foreign companys were useing all forms of racing to develop their products for the public. Without NASCAR to bare some of the finacial burden or developing better cars the big American car companys started to slip further and further behind until the public cared less about the product they tried to sale in their dealerships. This ment less profit and falling stock until the big American car companys fell apart.

    Now with foreign companys positioning themselves to buy out American car companys we can look forward to more economical cars and less muscle. We can already see this today with the struggling American manufactuers trying to keep up with foreign vechicals.

   So until American manufactuers once again embrace NASCAR or some other form of racing we will continue to see less and less until there is no longer an idenity for American cars. Unfortunitly I dont think American cars will ever be the same, and NASCAR could very well become the WWF of racing. All fluff no substance!