NASCAR

Bad timing for COT conversion in Nationwide

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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CONCORD, N.C.

Will the NASCAR Nationwide Series ever use the Car of Tomorrow? Many in the garage wouldn't mind if tomorrow never comes. At a period in the economy when TV ratings are down for NNS, lack of attendance is worse and it takes a marquee Cup driver just to get an interview with a potential sponsor to back a Nationwide team, now is not the time to introduce a new style car. Originally, NASCAR planned to roll out the COT in August of this year, but now it's looking like it will get introduced next season at the road courses and both superspeedway tracks (Daytona and Talladega). "It's going to be huge for owners — a lot of guys as a matter of fact," said NNS points leader Kyle Busch, who finished third in Saturday night's Carquest Auto Parts 300. "It's pointless. Why wouldn't a guy build a Sprint Cup car instead of a Nationwide car and do a start-and-park in the Sprint Cup Series? If they make the race, they're going to make fifty grand. You can't barely win fifty grand if you win the race in the Nationwide Series. "So if I were a car owner, I wouldn't even worry about it. As soon as they go to that — unless I had a sponsor that really, really, really, really, really wanted to do Nationwide stuff, I'd pack it up and say, 'goodbye.'" Busch won the first COT Cup race at Bristol in March 2007 then proceeded to comment that the car "sucked" from the podium. Although his up-on-the-wheel style has blossomed behind the wheel of the new car, Busch's opinion hasn't changed. Eleven COT wins is not reward enough for a car that Busch claims is impossible to pass with.
Mike Bliss, who won the NNS race at Lowe's Motor Speedway earned $72,438 for his effort. That wouldn't make a dent in a budget for the new car. On average, Busch and his team owner Joe Gibbs is pocketing less than $40,000 per Nationwide race. The top Cup organizations allocated $4.5 to $5 million per team for the conversion. In the Nationwide garage, the figure has been estimated at closer to $2 to $3 million on average, since some suspension pieces and other parts can be duplicated. And at a time when the auto manufacturers are struggling to contine, returning to that well time and again for additional funds for research and development simply won't work. The COT is anything but stock. While NASCAR still serves as the best marketing tool for the manufacturers, little if anything is gained by what occurs on the track. Kevin Harvick's KHI operation has provided a racer friendly atmosphere for drivers to compete in both the truck series and NNS. Harvick and his wife DeLana have worked tirelessly since 2002 to provide competitive equipment against powerhouses such as Roush Fenway Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and his own owner Richard Childress. In 230 NNS starts, KHI has produced four wins including the latest by Harvick in Bristol. As committed as Harvick has been to NASCAR's feeder series, KHI would have to cease operations in NNS if the sanctioning body opted to move forward with the COT. "It would put us out of business on the Nationwide side right now," Harvick said. "It would put us out of business. The bottom line is I drive for Richard Childress on Sunday but we do everything but our engines ourselves. So our budgets are still lower than what they would be from a Cup standpoint because we have less overhead, but we also have less R&D and less things happening. We still run a tight ship." Considering that Clint Bowyer earned just over $2.4 million for last year's Nationwide title run, even the tightest ship would have a difficult time staying afloat if the current car became obsolete.

Race: The final frontier

David Reutimann, who was seventh-fastest in Sprint Cup Happy Hour, has viewing the new release of Star Trek on his to do list. Reutimann is a big science fiction fan and watched reruns of Star Trek growing up. But it was three years ago during the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race at Long Beach that Reutimann had a close encounter with William Shatner, the original Captain James T. Kirk. "We came down that long straightaway and two guys got underneath him," Reutimann said. "I followed — I was going with them too. Evidently, he didn't know I was there. I turned around and put him into the fence. "I don't guess I was boldly going where no man had gone before but it was a complete accident. He was totally cool about it after the race. He didn't yell at me or get emotional or put me in a headlock or anything."

Lugnuts

NASCAR announced in the Nationwide drivers' meeting on Saturday that the punishment for removing equipment from the assigned pit area during a stop would now result in both a stop-n-go penalty and that driver would be sent to the end of the longest line for the restart. Kevin Harvick and Scott Wimmer were the first two drivers penalized under the new rule. The Sprint Cup teams are expected to be informed of the rule in Sunday's meeting ... The No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Toyota swapped engines before Happy Hour on Saturday and will have to start at the back of the field for the Coca-Cola 600.
Tagged: Scott Wimmer, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer

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