The Earnhardt Connection - News

NASCAR Changes Rules, McReynolds Speaks
The Earnhardt Connection
(March 18, 1998)

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Larry McReynolds says he is not throwing in the towel, despite Ford's dominance this year.

        NASCAR, hoping to even out the competition in its premier Winston Cup series, has made its second modification this month to the rear spoiler of the new Ford Tauruses.

        The latest change, coming after the sanctioning body took a sampling of cars for wind tunnel testing last week at Lockheed Aviation in Marietta, Ga., leaves the height of the Taurus rear spoiler intact at 4-3/4 inches, but cuts the width by two inches to 55.

        All other spoiler and front air dam measurements on the Fords, the Chevrolet Monte Carlos and Pontiac Grand Prixs remain the same heading into the TranSouth Financial 400 on Sunday at Darlington Raceway.

        "After going to the wind tunnel and looking at our findings, we found the downforce on the three makes was not that dramatically different,'' NASCAR spokesman Jeff Motley said Tuesday.

        Taking two inches off the width of the Taurus rear spoiler will have more effect on the drag of the car than on the downforce. That's where the wind tunnel showed us that the Chevrolets and Pontiacs needed help the most.''

        Air flowing over the top of the car hits the spoiler - a piece of sheet metal rising from the rear deck of the car, and causes downforce, or downward pressure on the car. That helps it stay solidly on the track through the turns.

        Drag comes from the air flow around the sides of the car and also helps pin it to the track as it hits the ends of the spoiler. The latest change will take the ends of the Ford spoiler almost completely out of the air flow.

        The new Tauruses, developed in the past year as a replacement for the discontinued Thunderbirds, have had an apparent edge in aerodynamics through the first four races of the season.

        Things were more even at the season-opening Daytona 500, a race won by a Chevrolet on a track that rewards horsepower more than downforce. But, starting the next week at Rockingham, the Fords began to shine.

        At Las Vegas, Ford took the first seven spots and 13 of the top 14. NASCAR quickly took a quarter-inch off the rear spoiler height of the Tauruses before the Atlanta race.

        A Pontiac won at Atlanta, but eight Fords followed it across the finish line.

        At that point, NASCAR impounded two of each model to take to the wind tunnel.

        By taking away some drag from the Fords, NASCAR hopes to slow them down just enough to make things more competitive.

        Motley called the most recent change ``minor compared to the first change we made.''

        Paul Andrews, crew chief on the Ford that Jeremy Mayfield driven to second place in the season standings, said the change does effect downforce as well as drag.

        "The fact that the rule change takes more rear downforce away isn't as big a concern as the fact that it changes the characteristics of the downforce,'' Andrews explained. ``From a pure downforce standpoint, this isn't a tremendous change. But it is significant. The Tauruses lost 14-1/2 square inches of rear spoiler with the first rule change and another 9-1/2 inches with this one. They started the season with 285 square inches, and now we have 261.25, so they've lost almost 10 percent of what they had to start the season.

        "Make a change of 10 percent anywhere else in the car and it's a major, major impact," Andrews added. "Ten percent here is a pretty big impact. It's not that it can't be dealt with, but some more time would be really nice."

Earnhardt's crew chief, Larry McReynolds, talked about the rule change.

        "I know the fans are getting tired of all these rule changes. It's sure getting old to us. I guess somewhere, I'd like to think, if they kept chopping and cutting, it's going to help. But my gut tells me this is not it. I'm not sure they're going to fix it with the spoiler, with the greenhouse they've got. I'm not sure you're going to fix it with a quarter-inch here and an inch there. I don't have the answer. They were pretty appalled with the wind tunnel results, but I don't think the results come as a big surprise, especially to the people who've been getting their brains based in by it. I've only hear through the grapevine, but I've heard the Ford was pretty superior to the Chevrolet. I've heard conflicting stories about the Pontiacs. I've hear they were right between the Ford and Chevy and I've hear they were on top of the Fords. It's hard to say."

        "I knew something was wrong on January whatever at Atlanta when we did the NASCAR test. Earnhardt climbed in the 21 car and came in saying, 'boys, I've got to have me one of these.' I knew we were in trouble. You didn't even need a stopwatch. You could see it."

        "This is the first time they've done anything like this (trim width of spoiler). They've just been taking off the top. In simple terms, if you get at the front of a race car and you back up and keep backing up, the first part of the spoiler you see is the end. That means they're taking away some of the spoiler that the air is going to see that goes around the car. A lot of the air goes over the roof of the Taurus. The air that goes around the greenhouse, it's going to take away something from there."

        "What's created this mess, and don't get me wrong, we haven't all always been running stock cars, but aside from the front and the tail, if you've got a good credit line or bank account, you can go down the street to a Chevrolet dealership and you can buy a Monte Carlo that basically looks like what we're running."

        "That's always been the case with most of the cars, but it doesn't matter how much money in the world you have. You can't go buy what they're racing, because they are racing a race car -- a car that was built to race."

        "That's the reason you're not going to take this 'stock' automobile and you're not going to make it like that car. That's the problem at hand."

        "I'm not going to throw in the towel yet. We've got too many races to go. I'm worried about it. I'm tossing and turning at night about it, but I'm not going to go to Darlington and say we're beat. If I do that, we will be. We've got to keep digging, doing just what we did at Las Vegas, making the most of what we can. It's still an awfully long season. If the rules stayed the way they were at Atlanta and Las Vegas, you'd almost concede, but we've got to keep working at being the best Chevrolet. You've got to leave the track saying we did all we could do."

        "The biggest thing I'm trying to think about now is how to take part of my salary and go to Nashville, Tennessee, and sign this kid named Casey Atwood and get him under contract. I'd have him at my disposal. There's talent there. He probably went home from the Busch race at Nashville Sunday afternoon and started writing his ticket. (Atwood, 17, won the pole and finished second in the race.) He's good. He's smooth, He's patient. It's just natural talent, I'd say."