After the final lap goes into the record books on Saturday night at Richmond, all but a dozen Cup teams will begin racing for the 2010 season. Some like to argue that the Chase format keeps a team from running for the title but in reality if you can’t be in the top- 12 with only 10 races left, you don’t deserve to have the opportunity to put your name on the trophy.
Over the course of those final 10 races, we will see plenty of hard racing as those teams racing for the title try and grab every point they can at each remaining stop on the schedule. That’s good for those running for the championship, but what about those teams that didn’t earn the opportunity to become the series champion?
Those teams will use the remaining races to try and put themselves in a better position to make the 2010 Chase. That’s not to say that the teams outside of the Chase will not be running for an appearance in victory lane. That’s the ultimate goal for every team when it unloads at the track, but if you are one of the teams outside of the Chase then you will probably start using some different setups as well as maybe tinkering with some of the equipment in hopes of finding something that may give you a jump-start on next season.
The Sprint Cup off-season is just a little over two months long and most crew chiefs will tell you that is not long enough to get prepared for the season-opening Daytona 500 in February. While those teams not participating in the Chase may get somewhat of a head start on next season, Chase teams also begin their preparation for the following year. They don’t have the luxury of experimenting at the track, but you can be sure that some of the personnel at the shop are already building and testing equipment to load on the hauler when it leaves for Daytona.
The sanctioning body also has to begin looking toward the 2010 season and what changes it may have in store for the competitors. One item that has sure been talked about in recent weeks is the possibility that some day in the notso distant future the Cup series will switch over to a fuel injection system instead of the old-school carburetors.
NASCAR is the only major sanctioning body that still mandates the use of a carburetor instead of fuel injection. All of the manufacturers are behind such a switch to fuel injection as every car they sell comes with fuel injection. Such a move would also put NASCAR in more of the mainstream movement of trying to make this country “greener”.
Fuel injection would increase gas mileage, but NASCAR is worried at this point that such a move would make it extremely hard to monitor as it would create the opportunity for crew chiefs to once again become creative with the amount of fuel flowing to an engine. Several teams have already started work on a fuel injection system for NASCAR, and once that system has been proven to be easily governed by the sanctioning body it will be quickly adopted for use. NASCAR has already announced that it doesn’t expect any big changes to the car that the series now races for the 2010 season. Drivers and crew chiefs both would like some more leeway with what they can do to the car’s body to increase down force and in the process put on a better show for the fans.
That isn’t going to happen anytime soon as NASCAR now has a car that is extremely safe for the drivers but also one that has very little gray area for crew chiefs to try and push the envelope. Such little wiggle room in the rulebook has put the emphasis on the car’s setup and even more pressure on Goodyear to bring a high quality tire to the track each weekend.
The racing has been followthe leader at some tracks this season, but very few races have ended with one car running away from the field. It seems to always come down to at least two or three cars that have a chance for the win over the final few laps. That’s the kind of competition that the governing body has always looked for, and now with a safe car, a very tight rulebook and close finishes, NASCAR has to be happy with what it sees each week.
Race Preview — Event: Chevy Rock & Roll 400. Track: Richmond International Raceway (.750-mile D-shaped oval, 14 degrees of banking). Date: Sept. 12, 7:45 p.m. TV: ABC. Radio: MRN. Defending champion: Jimmie Johnson.