NASCAR Sets Dangerous Precedent with Toyota Change

Dennis MichelsenCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2008

Isn’t the idea in racing to come up with the fastest engine and car? Joe Gibbs Racing did just that during the offseason with their switch to Toyota power, and they have gotten off to an amazing start this season with 13 wins in the first 21 races (which means 14 wins in total for Toyota).


How have they been rewarded for their hard work? NASCAR changed the rules starting this week with a smaller tapered spacer for the Toyota engines. This sets a dangerous precedent for NASCAR's future.



Rating Engines Is a Tough Science


Total power in an engine is not the best way to test which engine is better or worse. There is more to racing than just how much power the engine generates when it is flat out.


The torque available off the corners can be a big edge on some tracks. Being able to pull the car faster through the entire range of RPMs is huge. Can the car transfer all that power efficiently to the back wheels?


It takes more than just horsepower to win, but everyone seems to love to throw numbers at the fans to show how much they are getting screwed by the competition! Rating engines is a tough science.



All Toyotas Are Not Equal


Some teams are naturally more equal than others, but this year has been crazy!


While Joe Gibbs Racing has won a lot of races in the Nationwide Series, those wins have been mainly by the No. 20 car. Even more amazing is that the car has won with four different drivers! But NASCAR has penalized all of the Toyota teams for one team being dominant.


David Reutimann has driven a Toyota all season and has seven top five finishes in 21 starts. This average is almost identical to those of Chevy drivers Clint Bowyer and Brad Kesolowski.


If engine power is responsible for the No. 20's winning, wouldn’t Reutimann have grabbed one of those wins by now? Not all Toyotas are equal.



No Change in Cup Last Year


Last season Chevy won 13 of the first 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup races! Only Matt Kenseth’s win at California Speedway spoiled a perfect start to the season for the Bow Tie Brigade, but they had seven of the top 10 finishers in that race, too.


So why didn’t we see NASCAR penalize Chevy by tweaking the engines? When the engines were pulled at Chicagoland in the Nationwide Series, the top rated engine wasn’t the race winner and not all of the top five engines were Toyotas.


Testing engines AFTER a race makes no sense at all, either. Some engines age worse than others after a grueling race and could make the differences among engines post-race greater.


If dominance in the races was why NASCAR reacted this year, then why didn’t we see a change in Cup last year?



Last Minute Changes Nasty


NASCAR’s decision seems to make sense based on the fact that the Toyota engine has a larger bore than the other engines in use in the series. I won't go on with the technical Mr. Science explanation, but NASCAR approved the Toyota with this larger bore.


Last season Toyota didn’t have an advantage over the competition but they also didn’t have Joe Gibbs Racing or Kyle Busch! Whether a change was needed to prevent total domination by one car is a decision left to smarter people than myself. But what I do know is that it is very unfair to make this change on a Tuesday for a race coming up on Friday. Last minute changes are nasty for NASCAR teams.



Setting a Bad Precedent


Chevy did a masterful job of whining and getting their way much like the bratty kid that throws a tantrum until Mom gets him a lollipop at the store. The biggest trouble with giving into the brat is the next time they whine even louder.


What ever happened to being rewarded with wins for working harder and developing better stuff than the other guy? What’s next—handing out competition ribbons instead of winner’s trophies?


NASCAR has not made a midseason rule change to one manufacturer for over six years. It is uncertain whether NASCAR ever made a change to the engine rules in midseason to one manufacturer ever before. They are setting a dangerous precedent.


Editor’s Note: Keep up with the latest information about these changes and the reaction from the competitors on and on all week!