Monday, February 18, 2008

Parity in Nascar?

I suppose it can be called that. Toyota and Dodge have had a rough time in the Cup series, and yesterday Nascar proved that it will do whatever it takes to achieve equality.

Last year, Toyota and Dodge struggled to even make the Daytona 500. The speed just wasn't there, and the Chevrolets were dominant, once again. Ford looked strong as well, and no one thought anyone that wasn't driving a Ford or a Chevy didn't have a chance. That was true, for the most part.

What a difference a year makes though. A Chevrolet won the pole at Daytona, and Dale Jr. won the Bud Shootout and his Duel race, but neither Chevy nor Ford was much of a factor in any of the actual points races. In the Daytona 500, Dodge and Toyota accounted for the entire top 10, save the 9th position of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Chevy.

While fans of Toyota and Chevrolet may be cheering today, as well they should, it makes many of us question Nascar's engine rules. It was reported on Saturday that Tony Stewart's Toyota had 30 more horsepower at the rear wheels than did the Chevrolets of Richard Childress Racing, and at least 15 more horsepower than Dale Jr.'s Chevy. Did Toyota get an advantage in engine rules from Nascar? Did Dodge?

Nascar will deny any of this, but how did Dodge and Toyota go from worst to first in such a short time? I find it doubtful that Dodge and Toyota now suddenly have the best engine and car builders in the sport. The addition of Joe Gibbs Racing to Toyota's stable certainly added some much needed muscle to Toyota's Nascar program, but all 3 Gibbs Toyota's led the Daytona 500, and almost won it. Many times the Toyota cars appeared to need very little drafting help to stay in front. Jeff Gordon led the race a few times, but was easily passed by the Toyotas of Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Perhaps Jeff Gordon's car was not as good as he thought it was, but all the Hendrick cars appeared to be quite a bit slower than the Toyotas yesterday. That's no crime, but it does lead to a lot of head scratching.

For the time being, I will say a hearty congratulations to Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, who finished 1st and 2nd in the Daytona 500. The Penske Dodges were hardly factors at all for 99 per cent of the race, but were at the front when it counted, on lap 200. Congratulations to the Toyota teams as well. Kyle Busch clearly had the car to beat most of the day, followed closely by his teammate Denny Hamlin.

Enjoy the success, boys! Nascar might decide you've got too much of an advantage and put you back in the pack with the Chevys and the Fords

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