There is no doubt the economy is in the pit right now and president Obama’s pit crew is trying to pump some air into the country’s tires. Apparently not even NASCAR is immune from the effects of the downturn in the economy. In November 2008 NASCAR officials suspended testing on any race track that will host Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Truck or Camping World Touring events, this ban would commence on Jan 1 2009.
Now none of these tests carried any official weight to them anyways. Some of these test cars couldn’t even be categorized as a NASCAR, they were so stripped down. So what’s the problem then you may ask? Why has this ban created such controversy?
With the ongoing loss of sponsorships and hard economic times, the biggest reason for the ban was to create a more level playing field by trying to limit the cost associated with pre race prep. In previous seasons this sponsorship pretty much gave teams carte blanche to spend whatever they needed to obtain a win, and testing took up its fair share of this budget
Although the tests were far from meeting the high NASCAR standards, they were important to both drivers and crew chiefs. They would allow the drivers to hone their skills and become familiar with all the little quirks of each track and also to allow the crew to tweak their cars and try out a variety of new gear on real life conditions.
Not all teams are hurting though. Some teams have full sponsorship for the ’09 season and see this as a slam against them for past wins. Jimmy Johnson says “I think it’s a mistake,” the top tier driver also points out, “I think teams need a chance to work on their cars and improve their programs to put on a better show. At the end of the day, speed equals dollars.”
So the new rules beg the question: How is this going to affect performances this season? Are we going to see an improved season or just a bland, non event season in the NASCAR history books? To answer this, we need only read the ruling itself. Testing is only banned at NASCAR sanctioned tracks. Track such as Hickory Motor Speedway or Concord Motorsport Park in the Charlotte are still open for testing for teams wishing to do so. You can be assured that many teams will take advantage of this loophole, and the quality of racemanship will not suffer.
This is a rule that was necessary for NASCAR to implement, if only to show that they recognize the conditions under performing teams are facing in the current economic conditions. Every season, no matter the conditions around us, we will see some teams struggle and others thrive. It’s the law of nature and is exactly how any sport is designed, winners, losers, survival of the fittest. Resourceful teams will take advantage of what is still available to them and make the best of it. From a fan point of view, I think this season will be business as usual.