WAID’S WORLD: Manufacturers, Teams Vs. NASCAR – The Nature Of The Sport
Brad Keselowski’s assertion that Toyotas are faster than all others is due to the present technical competitive status maintained by NASCAR is by no means a new accusation. And, to be honest, it may well have elements of truth.
That the Toyota teams view Keselowski’s remarks to be no more than a spoiled-sport tantrum is also not new.
This sort of feuding, shall we call it, has been going on for years and involves manufacturers, teams and NASCAR. It’s simply a case of those who want to win by any means available against an entity whose job is to keep competition as equal as possible.
There have been times in the past where the altercations have become less like feuds and more like bloodletting’s.
Basically there are three reasons why all of this has become ingrained in NASCAR:
— Manufacturers make their case before NASCAR to establish technological arrangements that are more favorable to their cause. In other words, they want the rules structured so that they can win more often.
— Teams work diligently behind the scenes to exploit the rules. Their skulduggery is done for one goal: To be the best while still within the framework of the current legislation. If it works – and it has from time to time – they thumb their noses at the competition.
— There’s cheating going on. And one or more teams are getting away with it.
There was a time when manufacturers were more dominant in NASCAR than today. That means they were more hands-on and much more open about their demands. They were not afraid to stand toe-to-toe with NASCAR.
In some cases manufacturers were so powerful they dictated policy to teams and even went so far as to hire the drivers they preferred.
This was the case in the 1960s through the ‘70s when the “factory backed” teams won nearly all the races and the phrase, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” smacked of truth.
So if the manufacturers felt NASCAR unduly undermined their efforts, at times they reacted very harshly.
In 1965 NASCAR disallowed Chrysler’s Hemi engine, declaring it to have an uncompetitive edge. Chrysler staged a boycott and said it would take its stock car teams to USAC competition.
In 1966 Ford was severely limited in the use of its Overhead Cam engine – which it had created to battle the Chrysler Hemi.
Ford cried foul. It said it could not be competitive under the rule and announced a boycott.
Over two seasons you can just imagine how frustrated Bill France, president and founder of NASCAR, became. It was his job to keep the competition equal. And unless he could reach an accord, the sport would likely lose many of its top stars – a potentially messy situation, at least.
In time all issues were settled. And today’s manufacturers might not like all the rules, but the “boycott” is never mentioned.
There are so many examples of teams finding an edge within the framework of the rules that they cannot easily be counted.
My own belief is that is what is now occurring with Toyota.
It seemed that no matter what NASCAR enforced – from smaller wheelbases to altered rear spoiler height and everything in between – at least one team, or manufacturer, found the means to overcome.
Speaking of rear spoiler heights, during the early to mid 1980s, and a few years beyond, they were altered almost on a weekly basis.
They weren’t uniform, either. Ford got a certain height, General Motors another and Chrysler still another.
Some teams found it maddening. But others pressed on successfully, seeming unfazed by it or any other NASCAR legislation.
The Wood Brothers continued their dominance on the superspeedways. Junior Johnson’s cars ruled the short tracks, no matter who drove them.
Bill Elliott was so powerful on superspeedways in 1985 that it was thought he sold his soul to the devil. For several years Hendrick Motorsports was a juggernaut. And there have been others.
But in each case either NASCAR closed the rules’ loophole or other teams did their own alchemy and caught, or even surpassed, their once-dominant rival.
Sure, once there was plenty of cheating. It happened so often it became a part of NASCAR’s appeal.
And, admittedly, sometimes teams found it to be of great benefit – as long as they were not ratted out or caught by NASCAR.
But both happened even though NASCAR’s conviction rate was not nearly as high as it is now.
Oh, teams still cheat. You know that. But it is far more difficult to get away with it and the punishment is much harsher.
Some manufacturers and teams rise to the top and enjoy more success than others. But then there is a shift, sometimes quick and sometimes over the course of time, that shakes the status quo and sees others take their place.
It happens amid changing rules that are established by NASCAR with the intent of keeping competition equal.
It is the ebb and flow of the sport.
And it will continue.
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