Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Secret Behind NASCAR's Winning Drivers

(This article of mine originally appeared on The Love Of Sports earlier this week. All I ask is that you don’t confuse me with an actual NASCAR fan. I love cars, don’t get me wrong. And I respect these crazy drivers for flying around an asphalt oval at 200 miles per hour for 4 hours straight. But I really don’t know much about the "sport." And whether you want to call auto racing a sport or not, I don’t really give a shit. I just use the word “sport” for convenience and don’t necessarily confirm nor deny NASCAR’s status as a sport. Let’s just say I abstain from that vote for now.)

They say March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb.

I have no idea what that means, but the lion reference reminds me of how lions roar. And the roaring of lions reminds me of the roaring of engines. The engine noise reminds me of how difficult it is to sleep when the Hell’s Angels convention is in town. And conventions remind me of the convention center – where the auto show is held. The auto show, in turn, reminds me of cars. And cars remind me of NASCAR, because the word “car” is in the name.

What’s all the hubbub with these hot celebrity drivers anyway? I’d rather focus on the cars themselves. They get so little respect.

After all, they’re literally doing all the hard work – using their powerful engines to propel themselves at speeds of over 200 miles per hour; risking fender and axle, race in and race out; allowing the pit crews to put their hands ALL over their bodies and in every crack and crevice, even though they may not even know the pit members’ names.

Imagine if your co-workers gave you a good, thorough body search every hour or so during your workday.

That’s how these racecars must feel. Humiliating.

Fans spend so much time worshipping guys like Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch, when it’s their cars they should really be praising.

So, if we’ve accepted the notion that the driver isn’t doing most of the work, then what exactly is it that turns an average car into a perennial winner? Or loser, for that matter.

All of these racing machines are essentially the same size and weight and carry similar engines and other mechanical components. Most of the NASCAR engines vary by less than 10 horsepower. When you’re squeezing 700-800 horsepower out of a chunk of aluminum, a measly 10 ponies won’t make all that much of a difference over the course of a 500-mile race.

What’s the X-factor then?

Answer? The devil is in the decals.

That’s right. The faster the car, the cooler the decals – and vice versa.

Take a random sampling of the current Top 10 drivers and their major sponsors/decal providers:

Kasey Kahne – Budweiser
Kyle Busch – M & M’s/Snickers
Kevin Harvick – Pennzoil
Carl Edwards - Office Depot/Aflac Insurance

All great decals, and each one an advertisement for a top-notch and highly desirable product.

Now take a look at a few drivers from the bottom of the current NASCAR pile-up:

A.J. Allmendinger – Red Bull
Aric Almirola – United States Army
Robby Gordon – Jim Beam
Joe Nemechek – Furniture Row

Basically, these stickers suck. That’s the difference.

Red Bull? Nasty. Try p.i.n.k. vodka instead if you need a boost.

Jim Beam? I prefer Jack Daniels any day of the week.

U.S. Army? I respect these guys, but please don’t try to recruit me during a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the track.

And that’s why guys like Joe Nemechek (Furniture Row) and Kyle Petty (Wells Fargo) don’t have any chance of finishing in the Top 25 this season – unless they swap out their decals.

By studying recent race results, and adjusting for road conditions and weather, I’ve come up with the following calculations:

Budweiser decal = +115 horsepower
M & M’s decal = +77 horsepower
Pennzoil decal = +75 horsepower

Red Bull decal = -30 horsepower
U.S. Army decal = -42 horsepower
Furniture Row decal = -175 horsepower

This is simple math, folks. The stickers are adding or subtracting significant amounts of engine power – by my calculations.

My recommendations to those drivers wallowing in the depths of the NASCAR standings? Better decals.

Try these cool ones on for size:

Apple iPhone

All guaranteed to add at least 100 horsepower.

1 comment:

Dennis said...

Great post Scott.

I had a fun time reading it and I will NOT be checking the facts in your post! :)