The death of NASCAR? "You must be kidding," you're thinking. NASCAR attendance is at all-time highs, and the sport still appears to be widely popular. Let's look at why many are mourning the loss of true stock car racing as we knew it.
|Stock Car Oval Raceway|
The Hollywood version of stock car racing is one of prohibition-era bootleg whiskey drivers or modern day rebels who were skilled in outrunning the law (think 'Smokey and the Bandit' of the 1970's). Yes, these drivers were so skilled that they were destined to become noticed by the race car owners and scouts, and were drafted into the sport. This is probably another reason why NASCAR has jokingly been referred to as a "redneck" sport. Whatever the reason for our love of "reckless" young men driving insanely fast cars becoming such a passion throughout America, part of that fascination was that the cars that were being driven on the tracks were ones what you could actually go out and purchase to drive yourself! This was the allure that helped fuel the tremendous success of the American car manufacturers, and it's one of the reasons that NASCAR is dead for so many die-hard fans.
In the early days, NASCAR vehicles were actual stock cars which were wrenched on by the guys that drove them. Even when you hit the big times, a car owner had a handful for a “crew” at best or even if at all. You had a single toolbox that held everything you needed to tune, repair and maintain your car, and many times the driver was in on the wrenching.
Sometime by 1972 or so, stock cars lost the “stock”. The 1970's was a decade that started the great decline of the American made muscle car, and most every car made for that matter. We were hit hard with gasoline rationing in the mid 1970's and American car manufacturers scaled down both in size and power. While NASCAR and other forms of racing continued, changes were being made that changed things forever.
With the new EFI systems being able to monitor everything about the engine from computers, and with the degree of differences so small they are immeasurable, the cars truly are "exactly the same". Yes, this makes the playing field extraordinarily even, but it forces you to pick one driver over the other, as this is increasingly where the race is won. In the old days, you were able to take preference one car over the next because you believed that it was a better setup, a stronger engine, more torque…in other words, you developed an appreciation for the car itself. This is where true gear heads were born and it fueled our dreams. The cars used production bumpers, grille, glass and even the trim and interiors. Young boys couldn’t wait for the next issue of Hot Rod and other magazines to hit the racks so they could follow (and drool over) the latest and greatest rides to hit the asphalt.
So, WHY has NASCAR decided to go with EFI? It was very interesting to research this and find that it began back in 2003 when the engineering director at Dodge Motorsports realized that there were carburetor issues that needed addressing. What John Fernandez found was that the carburetor experts were all gone. The last generation responsible for carburetion advances were all retired or dead, and with electronic fuel injection having taken hold by the 1990’s, the knowledge seemingly died with them, as the newer generation of racing engineers and technicians had been captivated by EFI. Teams had to call in the retirees to help, but with their numbers dwindling and their ages ever increasing, NASCAR made the bold decision to allow EFI.