Is the Car of Tomorrow a step forward?

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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.

While I understand and support the theory behind the Car of Tomorrow, I wonder whether we really need it. We've got some good racing right now, and the cars seem pretty safe.

Jimmie Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus told me that the racing has been so good over the last year and a half because there haven't been any major rule changes in almost two years. All of the teams are starting to figure out what they've got, and they're starting to perfect it more and more.

NASCAR hasn't added or taken away spoiler height. Valances haven't been raised or lowered. With the exception of the manufacturers introducing the Fusion and the new Monte Carlo, we've had no major changes. The car consistency has done a lot for racing, and it's one of the reasons that I question the need for a Car of Tomorrow.

We're way down the road with the COT, and there's been a tremendous amount of effort and money spent. But maybe we just needed a little bandage or a couple of stitches. We don't need major surgery because when you do surgery on someone that doesn't really need it, it can cause more problems than they started with.

Mixed feedback

Sgt. Tony from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea: What have the Nextel Cup regulars said about their seat time in the Car of Tomorrow? Have they given any intelligent info or praise/criticism? Larry McReynolds: When they started testing the car last fall, the reviews were not good, but I'm going to commend NASCAR because they had to get a benchmark before they knew what was good or bad.

Car of Tomorrow tests
PHOTOS: Talladega

PHOTOS: Michigan

PHOTOS: Lowe's

PHOTOS: Bristol

PHOTOS: Daytona

PHOTOS: Atlanta

The feedback from some of the drivers who have been testing consistently, Jeff Burton in particular, has only gotten better and better at every test. NASCAR won't run the COT at Michigan next year, but over a year and a half before it will be run there, drivers tested the car at the track in August. Although the feedback wasn't great from that test, you've got to give NASCAR a thumbs up for looking ahead. By the time we get to the first COT race next March at Bristol, the teams and drivers should be pretty happy with the car. They're going to have a tremendous amount of information. We may go through some growing pains, but they're going to have most of the i's dotted and most of the t's crossed. In the perfect world, NASCAR would love to go full-blown with the Car of Tomorrow next year, but they want to crawl with this project. Next year, they will race at all of the lower-speed race tracks under a mile in length and let the teams and fans get used to it in places where aero is not important before taking it to Talladega for the final restrictor-plate race of 2007. Stage two in 2008 will be at the higher-speed race tracks like the mile to two-mile tracks. By the time we get to 2009, the COT will be used at every track. NASCAR isn't making any kneejerk reactions. They've been very methodical, opening up the tests to any team that wants to participate. Since it was announced so long ago, the buzz about the Car of Tomorrow has calmed down a little bit. You don't hear much being said about it. Even the Toyota buzz has settled down a little bit now that most of the teams and all but one of the Cup drivers are signed. The Chase has overshadowed the COT and Toyota, but in late November/early December, I'm sure the buzz will pick up again.

Talking the plank

Don from Colorado Springs, Colo.: Given the new nose for the Car of Tomorrow, will it increase the possibility of a car flipping end-over-end should the splitter — or plank as Knaus called it on SPEED's NASCAR Performance — bury itself in a soggy grass infield or backstretch as a result of an accident or the driver taking evasive action? Larry McReynolds: It certainly could. There's no question that it's like a little bit of a scoop or a plow so it could end up being a little more of an issue if a car gets into an embankment. There aren't a lot of those scenarios at our race tracks anymore like there used to be, but it would be more prone to that possibility than the current nose.

Speed Mail Larry McReynolds

One fuel cell

Andy from Cleveland, Ohio: Larry Mac, have you heard any indication from NASCAR about what size fuel cell they will require teams to use in the Bank of America 500 on October 14 at Lowe's Motor Speedway? Larry McReynolds: It's my understanding that we will run the 13 1/2-gallon fuel cell. Next year, it's my understanding that all fuel cells will be one size, and it's going to be around 17 to 17 1/2 gallons everywhere.

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

Tagged: Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson

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