Extinction of the Wing Won't Solve Everything but Sure Is Nice to See It Go

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IMarch 22, 2010

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 21:  Mark Martin, driver of the #5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, leads Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Kevin Conway, driver of the #37 Extenze Ford, and Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 US Census Ford,during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 21, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The moment that NASCAR fans have waited three years for is finally here: The wing is history.

Sunday marked the final time that the Sprint Cup Series cars will have a wing mounted on the rear deck lid. It was part of NASCAR’s new Car of Tomorrow that debuted back in March of 2007, ironically at the Bristol Motor Speedway, the site of its final race this past weekend. The intentions were for the newer car to be safer for the drivers after a rash of deaths in 2001.

But right from the beginning there was just something about the wing.

To say fans hated it would be an understatement. They called it ugly, and repeatedly said that wings are not meant to be on a race car. But fans weren’t the only ones that shook their heads in wonder: in the new cars' first race at Bristol that day, even race winner Kyle Busch had something to say in a victory lane.

“I said that I wanted to go out and win this race so I could tell everybody how terrible this thing is to drive,” he revealed after climbing out of the car. “I can’t stand to drive them. They suck.”

For the next three years whenever a situation arose that fans and even some drivers weren’t pleased about, they blamed the wing. The words “they suck” were used more than “Jimmie Johnson wins.”

Single file racing must have been the wing’s fault.

Racing a car that looked like something straight out of the Flintstones, via Tony Stewart, was the wing’s fault.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. not winning and running up front must have been the wing’s fault.

When NASCAR announced prior to the 2010 season that they would be getting back to basics, letting drivers have had it, and then they started to change one thing after another.

Some patiently awaited for their prayers to be answered. Quietly whispers began around the garage that NASCAR officials were considering returning to the spoiler that had been visible on the backs of Sprint Cup cars for many years.

Soon, test sessions with the spoiler were arranged and the excitement began.

At a test in Talladega last week four-time champion Jeff Gordon was very pleased with how the day progressed. “I think the car looks really cool. I think there’s some benefits that are going to come along with it, not only here but at a lot of the tracks that we go to,” he said.

When pressed, Gordon admitted what many had said for years, “I was never crazy about the way the wing was mounted on the back of the car. When I envision a wing being put on our car, I envisioned it a little bit more like a Trans-Am car where it was raised up, more of a cool-looking concept, and also fit a function of aerodynamics, just made the cars a little bit more futuristic.”

When speaking about aerodynamics and the Car of Tomorrow, many can look back to comments Gordon made during certain races in terms of the passing.

At Charlotte, he once said that it didn’t matter who had the fastest car, whoever was out front was going to drive away from the field. It was a trend that had been seen many times over the years.

At the time it looked like the wing was doing more harm than good and it just continued to frustrate everyone involved.

Consider Gordon, one of the many, as he continued with, “It wasn’t very appealing. We weren’t using it efficiently. So when I heard about going back to spoilers, I was totally fine with it. The car looks good a spoiler on it. You know, from what I’m hearing we’re going to get more downforce in the car.”

Then it became official: The spoiler would return on March 28 at the Martinsville Speedway. A cheer of approval was heard around the NASCAR world.

Immediately everyone wanted to say that with the return of the spoiler, it would mean that cars would no longer be getting airborne similar to what had happened to Brad Keselowski two weeks ago in Atlanta.

Apparently those people hadn’t seen races where the spoiler was used. Just ask Elliott Sadler about his Talladega tumble in 2003 and 2004, or even go back to the Nationwide Series race in Daytona this past February.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. went for a wild ride down the backstretch in a car that had a spoiler on it.

Whether a race car has a wing or a spoiler on it, if it wants to get airborne and fly it will. Nothing will ever stop that, but NASCAR should be applauded for continuing to try and build the safest race cars possible. However, with the wing gone it might change the way the air will flow around the car.

It has all yet to be seen, but one driver that is certainly as pleased as the fans is the same driver that made the first public comments about how much he hated the car. In his media conference call, Kyle Busch joined in the praise of what NASCAR had done.

“I feel like it’s a change, something that’s to the betterment of the sport to try to make these cars a little bit better,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. I definitely think that NASCAR wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t think it was for the better. We’ll see how it goes.”

There’s only speculation for the next few days and maybe even weeks until the series heads to some of the bigger tracks, as to how the racing might now be different. Fans don’t want single file racing; they don’t want cars that are spread out with little passing and melodramatic finishes.

The so-called boring races over the past few years were blamed on the wing and the new car, and now that the spoiler is returning there is high hopes that the racing will get better.

For everyone’s sake, we can only cross our fingers that those hopes won’t be dashed. If they are, it’ll be back to the drawing board of where the blame will get placed next.

Ryan Newman, driver of the Stewart-Haas No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet and an engineering graduate, believes that once the spoiler is mounted back on the rear deck lid of his and 42 other drivers cars, the difference will be more than just aesthetically pleasing.

He spoke to the media earlier this month and said; “I think the fans will see more racing even on the straightaways, if that makes sense. You’ll see more side-by-side, back and forth, nose-to-head, with the competitor down the straightaways, which I think will make places like Michigan and California, some of the tracks that are bigger, notorious for being a little boring through the middle of the race more exciting throughout the entire race.”

An entire race wth a car that resembles, is what a stock car should look like. That’s what fans have been calling for the last few years.

Wings, splitters, and cars of tomorrow don’t fall into the category of what NASCAR fans want. Spoilers, beating and banging is right in their comfort zone and starting at Martinsville that’s what they’re going to be to expecting.

Starting at Martinsville, the fans are once again getting what they want: The wing will be gone. However, it’s never polite to start celebrating something new without sending the past off with a nice parting gift and there is none better than saying goodbye to a wing that won’t be missed, even if it was blamed for things that weren’t its fault.

It’s just one those things that never belonged from the beginning, R.I.P.

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