Car of Tomorrow questions linger until Bristol

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

Earlier this month, I spent nearly five hours at NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. to shoot some pieces for SPEED (see below) on the Car of Tomorrow, but it was also a very valuable education for me.

Am I ready to bang the gavel and say it's going to be better than what we've got now? I can't, and I won't. Would it have been better if it wasn't rolled out until 2008? Probably, but sometimes you've got to pull your belt one notch tighter and say you're going to do this deal. NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said NASCAR has been working on this car for five years, and I don't know of any project that NASCAR has worked on for such a long time. They've tested it and done everything they know to do, but until the green flag waves on the 43 cars at Bristol (March 25 on FOX), there will still be a lot of unanswered questions. Even after Bristol, there will probably be some unanswered questions until we get to a higher speed track like Darlington.

Car of Tomorrow video

I've heard so many fans say the Car of Tomorrow is going to be like an IROC car, and they're all going to be the same. That's false. The cars won't be identically prepared across the board. Honestly, that part won't be different than what we have now. If anything, the manufacturer will have a little more of an identity. The Chevys are still going to have a Chevy nose and tail. The Dodge will still have a Dodge nose and tail. The same goes for Ford and Toyota. Like Chevrolet has done with the Impala, Dodge unveiled the Avenger as its Car of Tomorrow. Those makes will only run the Car of Tomorrow races. The current Monte Carlo SS and the Charger will be run at the other 20 races. Most manufacturer changes are traced back to selling more cars, but I get the feeling that those companies want to differentiate the current car from the Car of Tomorrow.

COT vs. current car

One of the differences between the Car of Tomorrow and the current car is the COT is just a bigger race car. The roll cage is wider. The greenhouse area over the driver compartment is four inches wider than the current car, and the car is 2 1/2 inches taller. One of the goals was to get the driver further over to the right side. There's a lot of room from the headrest to outside of the car. In the current car, the headrest is almost right against the window opening. A bigger car requires a tread width that's one inch wider, which makes the car 61 1/2 inches across. The extra room has been added to the left side, which allows the sheet metal to be pulled a little further out and away from the driver. Twenty-five years ago, the wheel base changed when we went to a new car, going from 112 inches to 110 inches. The wheel base won't change with the Car of Tomorrow. It will still be 110 inches from the front wheel to the back wheel.

Speed Mail Larry McReynolds

As NASCAR developed the Car of Tomorrow, a lot of thought went into the roll cage, especially the door-bar area on the right and left sides. It's a progressive configuration. If a car hits the wall from the side, it won't hit all of the door bars at one time. A steel plate has been added to the left side, and it serves two purposes. It strengthens this area, and if an object tries to pierce between the roll bars, the plate will keep it from getting to the driver. The thing that I like most is the addition of an energy absorbent material made by Dow. These pieces will dissipate the energy of an impact. It's a lot like a SAFER Barrier along a speedway's walls. In 2007, not only will race tracks be working on safety, the cars will take advantage of this safety advance as well.

FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at

"How to Become a Winning Crew Chief" is on bookstore shelves, or you may order your own autographed copy from

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