Comes from a discussion over at the Randy Ayers Modeling Forum, from a Talladega Nationwide race thread that turned into discussion about clean air and modern setups being a problem in the quality of racing today. Here are some of my favorite excerpts.
"Radials killed the flat tracks, or at least they killed the flat tracks once teams got a handle on shocks and springs to keep them stuck to the surface without a lot of banking."
"I think Tom hit something here too, ever since the "coil binding" set ups have become prevalant, it has harmed racing as well. It seems by the cars having no suspension travel and the bodies laying down on the frame rails it has turned NASCAR into Indy Car racing with little passing and the cars needing aero to turn them, instead of mechanical means. I think often of the quote Pearson had about the cars being so sensitive that it is to a point where a quarter pound of air makes a difference. I think the radial tires caused this and the drivers being unable to adequately communicate to get the car to handle and steer mechanically anymore. Drivers take short cuts like diamonding the turns or using the apron to steer the car. It wasn't many years ago this stuff was done in desparation, now it is common place.
This isn't a darkside "the older drivers were better" statement, I think in the never ending quest for speed, the handling of race cars slowly disappeared. It seems a chassis man who knew how to "set up" a car doesn't seem as prevailent. Maybe someone in the know can correct me, but by taking short cuts, it sure points to a lack of mechanical control over the car to me.
I wonder sometimes if these guys are so caught up in simulations, aerodynamics, 7 post shakers and engine tuning that they are forgetting the basics on getting the car to handle???"
"My first season of racing was in Street Stocks, on a fairly high-banked asphalt half-mile. They made us run stock springs and stock shocks that season and what I learned was the only way to drive them was to get to the end of the straight and toss it into the corner. That rolled the car over onto the bump stops on the right side and once it was there it stuck pretty well if I had my alignment set up for that much travel. When I first started learning to drive the race car I was tentative and I'd turn in gently like you're supposed to on asphalt, and the car would roll gently as I spiraled into the corner then just as I hit the apex it would bottom on the bump stops and it would shoot up a lane. If the front hit first the nose would take off, if the back hit first the tail would step out. It was hard to control and unpredictable, by tossing it I got all that travel taken up in one movement and it was nice and predictable after that. Of course, if I had to make any mid-corner corrections or avoid carnage in front of me it would get the car off the bump stops and upset the handling again. I sort of think the current setups are a lot like that."
"Basically I just don't think these cars handle. They don't seem to turn and they just don't seem to have that "on rails" look. The guys who win a lot are just muscling the cars around. My Dad and I were talking about this, the really chassis savvy guys like Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace, Alan Kulwicki and the like would probably struggle with this current driving style, with the car laying down on the frame rails and then having to muscle it around the track. And I think the guys who had the bump stop thing figured out a few years ago (Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart come to mind) struggle with it now, because with the downforce cars, it bottomed out and just went around the turn, now I think they botton out and then wander all over the place in the turn..."
All very good points, and quite true, I felt. Personally, I'd love it if the rules could be made to encourage emphasis on mechanical grip instead of aerodynamic as the latter is the chief enemy of good racing, as we keep seeing across all racing series across the world.