For those who may not have yet heard, Sunday February 26th will bring us Nascar’s Daytona 500. Unfortunately, the cars are nothing like what consumers could buy in dealerships across the country, making the race pretty much irrelevant for those car fans who know their cars.
But that’s not to say that Nascar isn’t at all popular. Heck, the popularity of motorsports is mostly due to its ties to big industry. Let’s put it this way: you don’t dream of playing with a certain brand of hockey puck after going to a hockey game; but many still yearn for driving a certain brand or model of car after going to a race. But lately, when someone won a Nascar race, few remembered the brand of car they were driving, making the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” strategy irrelevant. That’s why Nascar’s latest quest has been to bring brand loyalty back to the series. Sort of.
You see, back in the late 90s, Nascar set about to standardize all competing cars in an effort to create an equal playing field. The series sanctioned a common body style and tight powertrain restrictions that — for all intents and purposes — resulted in equivalent aerodynamics and performance. The thinking was to make the vehicles as consistent as possible in an effort to crown the best driver. In effect, the sport became more about the drivers than the cars themselves. The price was brand identity.
For today’s race at Daytona, drivers will pilot vehicles featuring electronic fuel injection — the technology that’s found in production vehicles today. And for 2013, Nascar announced a complete redesign of its cars… or so they’ll have you believe.
The cars still won’t have anything “stock” in them; a Nascar Impala has and will have nothing in common with what consumers can buy in dealerships. Heck, why make your Nascar resemble an Impala instead of a Camaro, or Corvette? Even a Malibu would be better… Whatever the case, the Nascars will continue to be built using custom-made tube frames and hand-made V8 engines mated to four-speed transmissions and overlaid with some steel body panels painted to resemble a Ford or a Chevy (but only in the front and rear).
That’s quite the change from the 50s and 60s, when Chevys and Fords were taken off the same production line as the cars headed to dealers and tuned for increased safety before hitting the track. To a Millenial like myself, all of this is very ironic, since “stock cars” used to be vehicles that anyone could buy from a dealer and Nascar used to be a race that benefited the street car thanks to track-to-street carryover. Not anymore.
So tomorrow’s race will re-kindle a long-standing American rivalry — Ford versus Chevy, something that hasn’t occurred in Nascar in years. In fact, a Chevrolet-badged car has dominated Nascar’s Sprint Cup title for seven straight years and has also won the manufacturer’s title for nine straight years. For the record, no Toyota-badged car (or driver) has won a Nascar premier series and a Dodge-branded car hasn’t won since Richard Petty in 1975.
But do you even care… and will you even remember that a Chevy (or a Dodge, Ford, or Toyota) won the race? I’ll bet you can already tell our answer, but we’d still love to know what you think in the comments below.