Answer is blowing in the wind

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2002

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- NASCAR's recent trip to the wind tunnel merely proved what everyone figured all along: Ford and Dodge enjoy an advantage over Chevrolet and Pontiac.

The sanctioning body sent the top cars from all four manufacturers to the Lockheed wind tunnel in Marietta, Ga., after Sun day's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Sources revealed to ESPN2 that Ward Burton's Dodge had the most downforce with 566 pounds on the nose and 814 on the trunk for a total of 1,380 pounds.

The aerodynamics of a race car produce a downforce, which pushes the car to the ground. When the car moves through wind, downforce provides traction in the corners. The more pounds of downforce on the car, the better.

Ricky Craven's Ford measured 537 pounds in the front and 805 in the back for a total of 1,342 pounds, while Tony Stew art's Pontiac was measured at 1,297 total pounds (545 in the front, 752 in the back), and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Chevrolet was at 1,246 pounds (498, 748).

A year ago, Ford led the way after the Atlanta race with 1,344 total pounds in race trim, followed by Dodge with 1,481, Pont iac with 1,456 and Chevrolet with 1,432.

''It's an ongoing debate, and I don't care to get in the middle of it, myself,'' Earnhardt said. ''But I know what I feel is right and wrong. Hopefully, we'll get these cars in the wind tunnel after Darlington. We don't have a worse race car or an inferior car race car; we've just got an unbalanced car. We've got too much rear downforce. We've got more than we can handle for the front.''

Actually, the most recent figures show that all four manufacturers are within 2 percentage points of each other in the balance between the front and rear wheels.

EARNHARDT IN COURT: A North Carolina man has taken Dale Earnhardt Inc. to court, saying the racing organization blocked his attempts to collect on an investment he made with Dale Earnhardt 28 years ago.

Gray London of Boiling Springs, N.C., said Earnhardt agreed in 1999 to pay him $550,000 and grant him the rights for three collectibles as payoff for an agreement he made with Earnhardt in 1974.

The two formed the Earnhardt Racing Team as the driver struggled to make his way into stock car racing. London said he never has been repaid for his investment.

Officials at DEI don't dispute the existence of the 1999 agreement between Earnhardt and London, according to an attorney for the Earnhardts. Jury selection has been difficult in tiny Shelby, N.C., because jurors there admit to being fans of the late champion or his son.

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