Add a Rear Splitter and Let Them Race

        Airborne cars at Daytona and Talladega

  November 2009                                       Dale Wilkerson

Sunday’s race at Talladega was mostly follow the leader, until the last hand full of crash filled laps.

                NASCAR announced pre-race that no bump drafting in the corners would be allowed, and for the most part, drivers kept a good bit of daylight between the cars in front of them Sunday afternoon.

                After the first few laps, and about 10 to 15 laps after a pit stop, whether it was green flag pit stops or under the yellow flag, the drivers would swap the lead a few times and then settle into a single file line of cars that was moving at a reduced speed and had drivers asking their crews to install cruise control.

                Even the announcers on the television broadcast were speculating if the drivers were doing this to show their displeasure with the no bump drafting edict handed down Sunday morning.

                Normally, a race with 58 lead changes would have folks talking about the great racing, but not this time. The majority of passes for the lead were due to green flag pit stops. There were also an unusual number of empty seats at Talladega Sunday, and the race did not help to get folks calling this morning to re-new their ticket orders or to make new orders for 2010.

                Then there were the crashes or ‘The Big One’ as we have come to call the multi car crashes that occur at the Talladega and Daytona. Both Ryan Newman and Mark Martin rolled their cars in the closing laps. Martin’s roll was caused by another car catching him in the right rear. Martin’s car was going to flip from that impact. There was no wing, no roof flap, or any type of restrictor plate was going to prevent Martin from turning over Sunday.

The bad thing for Martin, Jimmy Johnson was ahead of this car crunching melee, and Johnson once again padded his points lead over Martin and the ten other would-be chasers.

                Ryan Newman’s wreck was another animal all together.

                Newman was bumped from behind after he nudged his teammate Tony Stewart near the end of the back stretch. Newman’s car did a 180 degree spin onto the flat apron area of the asphalt. The car then lifted off the track, slamming hood and roof first onto Kevin Harvick’s car. After that impact he slid into the turn three wall upside down, then back down the pavement before flipping a couple of times before landing upside down in the grassy area along turn three.

                Newman remained inside the car while track crews rolled it back upright. Due to damage to the roof and roll bars, the top of the car hand to be cut off before Newman could climb out. This wreck could have been prevented, and the answer was provided by a NASCAR legend after his violent crash at Talladega 22 years ago.

                In 1987 Bobby Allison asked for a rear air-dam to be added under the back bumpers. When cars then, and now, get turned completely around, the under carriage of the car is just there gathering air and pounds of lift, turning these forward facing rockets into out of control, backward flying hang gliders.

                If the COT cars, Camping World Trucks and the Nationwide cars had a rear splitter or air-dam, there would be something to force the air around the vehicles, which would keep all of them from taking these unwanted flights.

                The new wing helps because it allows air to pass through it unlike the old spoilers that would give the cars more lift. The number of these reverse-aerodynamic flips has dropped since the winged COT cars have been on the scene, but the wings need help. NASCAR and the team owner’s all need to get in the wind tunnel, and nip this problem in the bud.

                Rick Crawford’s truck came off the ground during ‘the big one’ that happened during Saturday’s truck race. He didn’t flip because another truck hit him and helped to turn his truck around. When these big crashes start, another driver is not always right there to end the problem by hitting his competitor, in fact the truck that hit Crawford was there only because he had nowhere else to go on the track.

                With a rear-splitter or air-dam, the drivers could get back to racing without the fear of flying wildly above the track or into the catch fence. No I do not like drivers wrecking each other to make a pass, in fact if that was the only skill it took to race, why bother calling them professional drivers.

                These drivers know what to do on track; they know their limits as both drivers and the limits of the cars. If NASCAR feels a driver has crossed the line, black flag him. Whether it is Earnhardt, Johnson, Busch, the other Busch, Waltrip, Gordon, Robby Gordon, or Keselowski; if a driver gets out of line black flag them, not just at short tracks, but any track. In fact, Keselowski played a major role in the wreck that had Mark martin rolling through the infield then slamming head-on into the wall. Was he black flagged? I don’t think so.

                Talladega can and has provided some of the best racing in the history of NASCAR, but something has got to happen to help keep the cars on the ground, while allowing the drivers to race again, not just down the straight-a-ways, but all the way around that 2.66-mile caldron of speed.