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GM teams angry over not getting help from NASCAR

Aerodynamic battle

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2002

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Car owner Richard Childress walked into NASCAR's hauler with just one question on his mind. ''Are we getting any help?'' he asked.

When the sanctioning body told him the Chevrolets would not get aerodynamic assistance, he turned and walked out.

The issue of alleged aerodynamic discrepancies has heated up and has created bitter feelings and a war of words in NASCAR.

''It's totally ridiculous,'' said Childress, who owns the Chevrolets driven by Kevin Harvick, Robby Gordon and Jeff Green.

''We don't have a fighting chance out there, and they know it. They have the data and the results to prove it, and they won't do a thing to help us. It's a joke.''

Over in the Dodge camp, the leaders are singing a much different tune.

''I'm so sick of the whining,'' said Ray Evernham, owner of the Intrepids driven by Bill Elliott, Jeremy Mayfield and Casey Atwood. ''If they think the Dodges have such an advantage, then take it away from us and give us Jeff Gordon.''

It's unlikely General Motors will agree to that switch after all, Jeff Gordon has won four Winston Cup titles in their Monte Carlo. But with Chevrolet yet to break into the win column this season and its drivers complaining they are not competitive on the track, the manufacturer is working hard to get some help for both the Chevys and the Pontiacs.

Their argument was boosted last week when NASCAR took all four makes to the wind tunnel.

Results are not made public, but GM claims the data showed the Chevrolets lag behind the Intrepids in downforce by 10 percent and the manufacturer was outraged when the sanctioning body did nothing to correct the problem.

Downforce gives cars the ability to stick to the track and gain stability at speed.

''I was definitely surprised we didn't get anything after the wind tunnel tests,'' Jeff Gordon said. ''But I'm anticipating that will change be cause I don't see how things can go on this way and NASCAR expect us to believe it's a level playing field.''

General Motors does have a case to back up its argument.

Its teams have only one win and that came from Pontiac's Tony Stewart in the first five races, compared with three Dodge wins and one Ford victory. They've also got just four drivers in the top 15 in the points standings.

And its cars appear to struggle in traffic, proven in the last few weeks when Stewart dominated all day at Las Vegas but struggled to a fifth place finish after coming out in traffic after the final pit stop.

Jeff Gordon had a similar fate last week at Darlington, running alone up front most of the race, only to have his car become mediocre once he got into traffic.

''It was so obvious what was going on out there,'' he said after his ninth-place finish at Darlington. ''Up front, in clean air, we were good. Put us in a pack and we turned to junk.''

GM can't figure out why its pleas are falling on deaf ears. Its teams point to the season-opening race at Daytona, when the Fords complained from the day the cars arrived and eventually got two separate reductions in its rear spoiler height.

Dodge also lobbied for help and got a reduction before the race.

''We certainly remember how quickly NASCAR moved prior to the Daytona 500 to help Dodge and Ford,'' said GM group manager Doug Du chard. ''With the data from (the wind tunnel) test and the precedent set in Daytona, we expected consistent and equitable treatment.''

Now it's up to NASCAR to decide which arguments have the most validity and how to address them. For now, president Mike Helton said the sanctioning body plans to do nothing.

''We're not going to react just because someone is raising holy Cain. We'll react because we feel like we need to,'' Helton said.

NASCAR wants to sort through all of the complaints, he said.

''It gets turned up pretty high depending on what moment we're in. That takes a lot of time. That's a big distraction, trying to cut through all of that,'' Helton said.

One solution would be for NASCAR to go to a common template, where every car would be the same. Currently, the Dodges and the Fords are very similar to each other, and the Chevrolets and Pontiacs each have their own mold.

But the new Pontiac scheduled to debut next season is rumored to have a strong resemblance to the Intrepid and Taurus. If true, it would leave the Monte Carlo alone and likely continuing to struggle.

Helton isn't sure that NASCAR will ever reach the stage of one model for all its cars.

''There is a benefit for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Dodge and Ford to have brand identity in these garage areas,'' he said. ''That's the backbone of the competition and the business.''



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