I’m one of you. Long before my first article or big name interview and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a stock car fan. So for that reason, my name doesn’t matter and neither does my photo. It’s more like we’re just sitting here in the grandstand before the race, talking about Dodges and NASCAR. Hey, you want a cold one? --JC
Don’t Leave Us Hangin’!
What’s that old sayin’ about ‘What a difference a day makes’? Since the great MOPAR Massacre at Daytona wa-a-ay back in February our Pentastar Players have been pretty quiet. In fact, too dang quiet. Since then, we’ve seen Ford run the table with back to back wins (The old oil tank cover trick was clever, guys, really clever. What’s next? Is the shifter boot gonna spring a leak?), Tie-oda winning its first points race (It was only a matter of time, ya know) and the return of them Chivvies. But where’s the Dodge? MIA is the first printable term that comes to my feeble mind.
Now, if you wanna email me about how they finished third here and whatever there, don’t bother. I’m one of those old school racers that think second place ain’t nuthin’ but the first loser. We’re talking wins here, dig? Besides, in the corporate year of ’08, wins ARE all that matter.
As we’re throwin’ this together (under threat of harsh economic sanctions and social repercussions from the boss man) it’s the week of Easter and there ain’t no racing. That means this could all turn around at Martinsville like it did when we wrote about putting Chevy’s picture on a milk carton cuz they ain’t won nothing. Then they go and pull a hat trick at Bristol. Don’t blame me!
The point here is that since Daytona, the Dodges ain’t showing anywhere near what they did back then. ‘Cept for a consistent Kurt Busch, who peeks in the lead here and there but is living a streak of bad luck that would make a Vegas bookie cringe, there ain’t been no consistent Dodges so far this season. And as pretty much anyone who knows the smell of Goodyear rubber will tell ya, you gots to be consistent to get to the big dance at the end of the year. Hellfire, you gotta be consistent to win races THEN be consistent in winning just to get into and stay in the Top Ten – oops, I mean Top Twelve.
We ain’t much for predictin’. But we’ll leave our big ‘ol butt exposed and say that this season will go down at one of the most competitive in history. Why? The two biggest reasons are - One - the new car. Drivers, crew chiefs, engineers and the boys and girls back at the shops are pulling their hair out learning the differences in this car. In some areas it is newer and better and in others it’s a two-step backwards. Either way, the learning curve is crazier than the back roads by Junior Johnson’s place where they used to outrun the revenuers running moonshine.
The other reason is something we talked about last time here and over at sister publication MaxChevy.com. That is, both Ford and Mopar admitted they done dropped their balls last year and came out swingin’ this year to make up for it. Bottom line, the new car is an equalizer and all the teams – even those Tie-odas – are up on the wheel and about on the same level. (If you take what happened last year when Chevy was strong and took advantage of a sluggish Ford, a confused Mopar and newbie Tie-oda, well, it was kinda like shootin’ fish in a barrel.) So what IS going on this year? Everybody’s at the school house again and they’re all in the same grade, dig?
Oh yeah, then there’s that luck thing. We’ve all seen our favorite driver be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And we totally dig it when ‘our’ driver is in the right place at the right time. That, my friends, is luck. Well, that and having a part break on the cool down lap after the race. You can say the Dodges haven’t had much luck this season but the real problem is they haven’t had good results with their intermediate cars. And that is scary. Not scary like my cousin, Emma Mae who wears flannel shirts and drives the garbage truck, but scary cuz most of the races are on intermediate tracks. You know those tracks – the ones that are a mile to two miles long and are usually tri-ovals. There’s more races on those tracks than any other type.
Dodge, or any other team for a that matter, needs to have a killer program for intermediate tracks if they want to be a contender. Sure, winning the Daytona 500 is a big deal – a really big deal – but if you take away the glitz and glamour of the 500, it is one of four ‘speedway’ races (two each at Daytona and Talladega). Lemme tell you a little secret. Despite NASCAR’s plan that the new cars can be used at any track, teams WILL keep their ‘plate’ or ‘speedway’ cars separate. Why? Because they spend a BUNCH of time and money workin’ and floggin’ those cars in the wind tunnel to get a half a MPH here and a half a tenth there. They are not about to throw that car to the wolves on a short track where it will end up as souvenir sheet metal. So there is still a big assed difference between an aero car and downforce car. Obviously, Dodge done did their homework on the aero car but it sure looks like they got detention on the downforce car.
And that begat a serious game of catch-up for our Charger kids, and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. Sure, they’re already on the hunt. But racing always has been a matter of the team that knows the most about their car and has the best of luck. With all the teams scrambling to break the Voodoo of the new car, it will be the first to get the most knowledge that wins the most. We’ve all seen how this season has played out so far. And so far, those Dodges are kinda looking like Emma Mae- and she scares me.