LEMASTERS: Aero Troubles Follow Teams To Sin City

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CONCORD, N.C. — So what do we know, now that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has completed its opening three-race salvo for 2011?

We know that while things are different, they remain much the same.

The new nose on the Sprint Cup cars was supposed to be a better bullet, making the cars look less like Tonka toys and more like actual, by-God, race cars. They’ve done that, because the cars look pretty nice, all things considered.

They still plow air like the Department of Transportation in Buffalo plows snow, and that’s a problem. That means that once again, clean air is more of a factor in who wins the race than horsepower, driving skill or the combination of both.

Consider Tony Stewart’s strategy. He pitted early and put on two tires to gain track position, thus meaning he would be in position to put four on for the run to the checkered. It nearly worked, but Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya did the opposite and got ahead of him for the final run.

Stewart was able to run Montoya down, but stalled out in pursuit of Edwards.

Kyle Busch said that he was wicked fast when he was by himself, but in traffic, the car stalled out and he had to ride.

It’s a problem that NASCAR has been fighting for the past 15 years or so, and myriad changes have taken it full-circle. The approach is equal parts pit strategy and track position, which is OK, but for one thing they’re having to rely on problems or bad pit calls to get to the front.

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but that isn’t NASCAR. That’s Formula One. That’s the old CART. I can do that same kind of thing on my video game console at home. It’s not fun there, either.

Of course, it is the first race with the new combo on a 1.5-mile track, so NASCAR will evaluate, I’m sure. Just like at Daytona, it’ll tinker and get it better.

The schedule played a part in this, too. The first race at Daytona was a crapshoot, because construction bricks can draft there. Phoenix? Not so much of a problem and they raced competitively there, three-wide and rolling.

Vegas, on the other hand, is a different animal. That type of track is the most common on the circuit, and by the cars exhibiting the aero sensitivity they did, it means a lot of follow-the-leader racing is in the offing.

That’s a bad thing for NASCAR, Fox, the fans…the list goes on.

Goodyear’s tires were steady for the most part, but the three tires they had that went down all resulted in wall-bangers. Jeff Gordon and David Gilliland took the short right turn in the middle of the corner, and that’s seriously bad news.

After three races, it’s gone according to Hoyle, for the most part, but NASCAR will have to put its thinking cap on to cure the aero problems that showed up at Vegas.

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