Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ok, I've been lazy long enough!

Ok, enough with the non-racing stuff! I actually do have a few thoughts that have trickled down through my gray matter since the first testing session at Daytona this week. The keywords here will obviously be Car of Tomorrow, engines, and of course, speed!

It seems that pretty much what Nascar wanted is what they will get, at least so far. Yes, Jimmie Johnson was the fastest in the first couple of days, and that's not a big surprise, but I guess what is the most surprising element of this first test session was how competitive all the brands were. Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, and yes, Toyota. All showed some good lap times.

I probably shouldn't really be surprised, since the COT was basically designed to even the playing field, as Nascar has for decades made one of its primary goals. Are test speeds truly indicative of actual racing performance? No, and not by a long shot.

The addition of the Joe Gibbs Racing boys to Toyota is certainly going to give the first foreign owned manufacturer in decades a decided boost though. A program on the caliber of JGR would give any manufacturer a boost. 3 very talented and proven drivers such as Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and new addition Kyle Busch will bring a ton of talent and skill to Toyota this year. In my humble opinion, Toyota will be a player in 2008. The might not win it all, but they will be right there, getting better and better as the year progresses. I believe that Joe Gibbs Racing will lead the way with engines for Toyota beginning this year.

Ford has virtually all their eggs in one basket once again this year, with Jack Roush being the basket from which all good things Ford will be delivered. Roush continues to have a piece of the pie in virtually every Ford team in Nascar, regardless of the series. Whether it be engines or chassis or entire cars, Roush is the man to see if you're driving anything with a blue oval on it.

Dodge seems to have basically solidified it's dependence on Evernham Motorsports again this year. Ray was instrumental in bringing the Dodge brand back to Nascar, and now he's building engines for just about all the teams running the Dodge brand once again. I'm figuring that if Petty can't build engines better than Ray Evernham, then Ray must have a very good engine shop indeed.

Chevrolet will be mostly left with two dominant powers this year, with the loss of Joe Gibbs, that leaves basically Hendrick and DEI/RCR. The merger between Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Richard Childress Racing will reportedly be overseen by Richie Gilmore, who built the majority of the engines that powered Dale Earnhardt Jr. to his current 17 Cup wins. Richard Childress Racing will probably be the backbone of the operation, after all, they've been building engines for much longer, will probably provide much of the technology. I won't be surprised to see some RCR or DEI cars win some races this year.

What I will be surprised to see, however, is that Hendrick doesn't continue its dominance of the sport. Hendrick engines have scored so many wins in the last year or two that they just defy all descriptions of how great it must be to have one in your car. Let's face it, we're all running basically the same car this year, with the COT. Chassis and handling are still in a crew chief's realm, but not much as far a bodies. The biggest factor is still going to be the engine, and Hendrick would seem to be at a definite advantage going into the 2008 season.

We've got a brand new batch of test cars coming up next week, so we will see if the trend we saw this week still holds going into Speed Weeks.

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