When Dale Earnhardt died at Daytona in 2001, shock waves reverberated around NASCAR. In response, engineers have redesigned cars to provide extra safety measures. The “car of tomorrow”, as it’s called, has recently been tested:
Officials and teams tested prototype versions of the redesigned car at Talladega Superspeedway on Monday. Roush Racing driver Carl Edwards tested a Ford, Kyle Petty tested a Petty Enterprises-built Dodge and Brett Bodine tested a Chevrolet that was built by NASCAR’s own engineering staff.
… The changes provide extra room for new energy-absorbing blocks of metal that NASCAR has been developing since the death of star driver Dale Earnhardt in February 2001. The new car’s roll cage, a steel skeleton that protects the driver, also has been beefed up.
Kyle Petty says the car doesn’t drive much differently than what’s already out there. But,
The new car’s body intentionally has been designed to be boxier than current cars; officials hope less aerodynamic cars will be able to pass each other more easily on the track.
If the new cars take some of the risk out of passing and there is a decreased advantage to drivers, won’t drivers find a way to somehow adjust in order to gain that competitive advantage back, perhaps nullifying this particular feature?
Of course, cost is a big factor:
Roush Racing president Geoff Smith says the new car will cost teams millions of dollars to produce. But if NASCAR phases it in gradually, Smith says the cost will fall from “catastrophic” to merely “expensive as hell.”