McREYNOLDS: NASCAR's first aero change may not be the last

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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.

In racing, especially at Daytona and Talladega, a quarter of an inch is a pretty significant amount. When you take any amount of spoiler away, whether it's size or angle, a little bit can be a lot. A quarter of an inch by 57 inches is a lot of square inches, close to 15 square inches. But after Daytona testing ended last week, the real question in the mind of the teams, and I've got to believe it was the question in NASCAR's mind too, was: Are the Fords really as disadvantaged as they appear to be when you look at the testing speeds? With its announcement on Tuesday that the Fords can lop off a quarter-inch from their rear spoilers, NASCAR's answer was yes. But at least one Ford crew chief thinks it's still not enough. "The wind tunnel data showed in order for the Fords to compete with the Dodges, and the Pontiacs, we would need a six-inch spoiler," Frankie Stoddard, crew chief for Jeff Burton's No. 99 Ford, told the Associated Press after NASCAR cut the Fords spoiler height from six-and-a-half to six-and-a-quarter inches. "How we can overcome the deficit and still race competitively with the rule issued today is going to be very difficult in my opinion," Stoddard continued. "A GM product has won at least 12 of the last 16 restrictor plate races. I don't see things changing in the near future." Stoddard definitely knows better than I do what he really needs, and it's his job as a crew chief on a Ford team to lobby and get NASCAR to cut as much off of the spoiler as he possibly can. I can't imagine NASCAR letting them cut more than a quarter-inch off the spoiler. I'm a little surprised that NASCAR did let the Fords cut that much off the spoiler. I guess the officials had enough information at Daytona when they let Rusty Wallace and Andy Hillenburg, testing the 28 for a recuperating Ricky Rudd, take several laps with a quarter-inch and a half-inch spoiler. One thing to remember, though, is NASCAR giveth, but NASCAR also can taketh away. If they watch the Bud Shootout and qualifying, and it looks like the spoiler change let Ford step across the fence to an unfair advantage, then they can add that quarter-inch back to the cars. I'm still a little confused about the difference between Dodge and Ford, because the Intrepid and the Taurus have the same greenhouse. The greenhouse area of the car is from the door top, the bottom of the windshield and the bottom of the rear window up to the roof of the car. The difference must lie in something like the deck lid. One make might have a little longer deck lid than the other. It has to be something like that to dictate that one's asking for a shorter spoiler than the other to try to be equal. Dodge would love to get a quarter inch for its cars too, but their testing speeds looked awfully good. And although last year was a different rule configuration, Dodge sat on the pole for every restrictor plate race so I don't think they would have a leg to stand on to ask NASCAR for less spoiler just yet. I'm sure NASCAR hopes that this will be the only change to the new aero package before the Daytona 500, but if there is an imbalance in the Bud Shootout field, I anticipate NASCAR will do the same thing it did a year ago. Take one of each make to the wind tunnel. When you take the cars off the racetrack after a race, you know you have got the teams' best efforts. I thought that was an awfully smart thing to do a year ago, and it may not be a bad move again this year if there is an imbalance after the Bud Shootout. As this early ruling shows, I think new Winston Cup Series director John Darby is going to be good for the sport and the division. I worked with him a lot last year when he was the Busch Series director. He seems to be a guy that will shoot straight and treat everyone fair. He also seems to be pretty consistent. Sometimes people change when they step into different positions, but I think Darby will be good for this program. The Associated Press contributed to this story. For more information on Larry, check out his Web site

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