Car of Tomorrow
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2013)|
|Length||206 in (523.2 cm)|
|Width||78.5 in (199.4 cm)|
|Height||53 in (134.6 cm)|
|Wheelbase||110 in (279.4 cm)|
|Weight||3450 lbs (1565 kg)|
|Fuel||Sunoco Unleaded: 2007–2011
Sunoco Green E15: 2011-Present
|Debut||March 25, 2007|
The Car of Tomorrow is the common name used for the chassis that accompanies NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series (2007–2012) and Nationwide (2010-present) race cars.
Best known for being used as the fifth generation car style for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the fifth-generation cars were larger and boxier than the design it replaced, but the Car of Tomorrow was safer, cost less to maintain, and was intended to make for closer competition.
The car was introduced in the 2007 Cup season at the Food City 500 on March 25 and ran a partial schedule of 16 races. The plan was to require all teams to use the new car in 2009, but NASCAR officials moved the date up to the 2008 season as a cost-saving measure. The fifth-generation car's body style was retired by NASCAR car after the 2012 Ford EcoBoost 400, as the sixth-generation car, which featured chassis safety improvements but using the same chassis and an entirely new body, debuted in 2013.
Many teams simply removed the fifth-generation car bodies, added the new chassis safety improvements, and installed a sixth-generation car body.
In 2010, the Nationwide Series ran a partial schedule on different bodies, but using the same chassis. Teams could take old Sprint Cup cars, change the bodies, and run them in the Nationwide Series, provided they passed recertification. The car was required in 2011 full-time.
On January 11, 2006, NASCAR announced the Car of Tomorrow after a seven-year design program sparked mainly by the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in a final-lap crash during the 2001 Daytona 500. The then-current cars were based on a design by Holman Moody first used for the 1966 Ford Fairlane. The primary design considerations were "safety innovations, performance and competition, and cost efficiency for teams."
The CoT has improved safety over the older car. The driver's seat has been moved four inches toward the center, the roll cage has been shifted three inches to the rear, and the car is two inches taller and four inches wider. Larger crumple zones are built into the car on both sides. The splitter is a piece of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP, "fiberglass") used on the bottom front of the car to produce downforce, replacing the valance. The car's exhaust exits on the right side, which diverts heat from the driver. The fuel cell is stronger, and has a smaller capacity 17.75 US gallons (67.2 L), down from 22 US gallons (83 L), which as of 2007 has become standard in all cars.
NASCAR officials say the car is less dependent on aerodynamics. It had a detached wing, which has not been used since the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird in 1970. The windshield is more upright, which increases drag. The radiator air intake is below the front bumper of the car, which reduces overheating caused by clogged grilles. The front bumper is more box-like, which catches more air and slows the car. The front airdam is gapped, as opposed to being a flush piece on the older cars.
All cars are required to fit the same set of templates, using a device that has been named "the claw" that is designed to fit over the new cars. Yet there are still minor differences between the makes. In the first two races at Bristol and Martinsville Speedway, the garages were opened one day early and the inspections took up to 10 hours so that everyone (teams, officials, etc.) could get a better grip on the new unified template. NASCAR's old rules had a different set of templates for each manufacturer (Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and Toyota). NASCAR has frequently adjusted the rules to ensure that different car manufacturers have relatively equal cars.
On Friday, January 15, 2010, Sprint Cup Series director John Darby informed teams that NASCAR would transition back to the spoiler, and get rid of the rear wing because it is contributing to flips.
This chart lists the CoT's dimensions compared with the dimensions of the cars represented.
|Chevrolet Monte Carlo||200.7 in (5,098 mm)||72.5 in (1,842 mm)||51 in (1,295 mm)||110 in (2,794 mm)||3,400 lb (1,542 kg)|
|COT||206 in (5,232 mm)||78.5 in (1,994 mm)||53 in (1,346 mm)||110 in (2,794 mm)||3,450 lb (1,565 kg)|
|Ford Fusion||190.6 in (4,841 mm)||72.2 in (1,834 mm)||56.9 in (1,445 mm)||107.4 in (2,728 mm)||3,101 lb (1,407 kg)|
|Chevrolet Impala SS||200.4 in (5,090 mm)||72.9 in (1,852 mm)||58.7 in (1,491 mm)||110.5 in (2,807 mm)||3,711 lb (1,683 kg)|
|Dodge Charger||200.1 in (5,083 mm)||74.4 in (1,890 mm)||58.2 in (1,478 mm)||120 in (3,048 mm)||3,820 lb (1,733 kg)|
|Toyota Camry||189.2 in (4,806 mm)||71.7 in (1,821 mm)||57.9 in (1,471 mm)||110.3 in (2,802 mm)||3,263 lb (1,480 kg)|
|Holden Commodore SS-V Redline||192.68 in (4,894 mm)||74.76 in (1,899 mm)||58.11 in (1,476 mm)||114.76 in (2,915 mm)||3,902 lb (1,770 kg)|
*Weight displays the curb weight of the least expensive trim level available for model year 2008 unless otherwise specified. The Holden Commodore listed is a 2012 VE model with a V8 and manual transmission (which road-cars will be imported). The VF Commodore will debut for the 2014 model year in early 2013.
The Car of Tomorrow was first tested in December 2005 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Next it tested at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, then on NASCAR's two shortest tracks, Bristol (0.533 mi) and Martinsville (0.526 mi.), the 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway, the 2.66 mile Talladega Superspeedway, and 2.0-mile Michigan International Speedway. Former NASCAR driver, current Sprint Cup pace car driver and Director of Cost Research Brett Bodine also tested the prototype car against cars prepared by current NASCAR teams.
Drivers have tested the CoT concurrently with the old car at some NASCAR tests and at special NASCAR-authorized tests. Some teams have tested the cars at the half-mile Greenville-Pickens Speedway, Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC, and the one-mile North Carolina Speedway, none of which are Sprint Cup tracks (the North Carolina Speedway was a regular venue until 2005), and therefore are tests which do not fall under NASCAR's restrictions.
The Car of Tomorrow was first raced at the 2007 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the season's fifth race. The tracks that saw the CoT twice in 2007 besides Bristol and Martinsville International Speedway were Phoenix International Raceway, Richmond International Raceway, Dover International Speedway, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Other than Talladega (for the fall event), Darlington Raceway and the road course races at Infineon Raceway (Sonoma, Calif.) and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International ran the CoT once each in 2007.
Original implementation plans called for the CoT to be used at 26 events in 2008, starting with both races at Daytona, including the season-opening Daytona 500 and related events (Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duels), the spring race at Talladega and Michigan, both races at California Speedway, Pocono Raceway and the event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Based on the success of the February 28 test at Bristol, NASCAR considered requiring CoT cars for the full schedule in 2008 in order to avoid applying two sets of rules (as supported by a survey of NASCAR owners, with 80% favoring the switch), adding all three events (including the all-star event) at Lowe's Motor Speedway, as well as both races at Atlanta and Texas Motor Speedway, and single races at Chicagoland Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway one year earlier than scheduled. This was confirmed on Tuesday, May 22, 2007, by NASCAR. Had NASCAR continued with the original schedule of implication, the other tracks would have been added in 2009.
Reactions to the CoT's performance were mixed. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., after finishing 7th, said, "It wasn't a disaster like everybody anticipated. It worked out, I reckon. Racing was about the same." Drivers were also impressed with the car's ability to bump other competitors without causing a spin (bumper heights were equalized due to street car development, and nose-to-rear bumper contact caused spins that pre-1988 cars would not cause), and NASCAR officials were pleased with the improvements in safety.
Several drivers and pundits expressed distaste for the car and what they perceived as a less exciting style of racing created by it. Kyle Busch, despite winning at Bristol, commented that "they suck" during his victory lane interview. Retired driver and TV analyst Rusty Wallace stated on ESPN that the car created a boring, single-file racing environment with little of the passing, action, or crashing that has made NASCAR popular, though after NASCAR announced the CoT would run the full schedule, he stated that it was "one of the best decisions NASCAR had ever made." Drivers who placed well at Bristol, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton, claimed that the car allowed the use of a second passing lane not usually present at Bristol. For the most part, however, the racing was strung out and single-file with drivers tentative in trying to make passes.
A major problem with the car's initial race was its front splitter. The splitter is a piece of FRP used on the bottom front of the car to produce downforce. It replaces the valence. One car's splitter running into the tire of another car beside it sometimes punctured the second car's tire. There were no problems with the splitter causing tire failure at the car's second race.
Another major problem has been that the foam used in the side of the car has caught fire, causing smoke in the cockpit. Kevin Harvick experienced this problem at the first CoT race at Martinsville costing him a good finish or possibly a win, and NASCAR decided to make modifications before the April 21 Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Avondale, Arizona.
During the 2007 UAW-Ford 500, the CoT's first debut on a superspeedway track at Talladega, NASCAR assigned a 31/32 inch (24.6 mm) restrictor plate to allow the engines to run at around 8,800 RPM due to the less aerodynamic design of the CoT. The previous generation car's engine would normally run around 7,000 RPM with a ⅞ inch (22.2 mm) plate. This was the most open restrictor plate to race at Talladega since 1988.
Chevrolet teams continued to use the Monte Carlo SS name on the old style car while using the Impala SS name on the CoT. Chevrolet discontinued the Monte Carlo model after 2007 and switched full-time to the Impala nameplate starting in 2008, which ran until 2012. Dodge teams used the Charger name on the old car while using the Avenger name on the CoT; however, for 2008 the Charger name was used on the CoT. Ford used the Fusion while Toyota used the Camry, respectively, for both their old and CoT cars.
Criticisms and redesigns of the COT
NEXTEL Cup era
Criticisms of the CoT began with its first tests, with the magazine Speedway Illustrated noting the car's poor performance in traffic (February 2006 issue). The Winston-Salem Journal also noted extensive criticism of the project during 2006 testing, with drivers becoming more vocal by July 2007 and most fans rejecting the model, citing the falsity of many of its technical claims; one angle of criticism was the differing philosophies of NASCAR officials Gary Nelson and John Darby, with Darby a particularly ardent supporter of the CoT based on a misreading of the sport's competition packages. Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth were pointedly critical of the car's poor performance in traffic, with Gordon stating after the 2007 New England 300, "I'd like to know who it was who said this car would reduce the aero push because I could have told you from when I first drove this car that it would be worse." Kyle Busch, who won the very first race with the car at Bristol in 2007, proclaimed that the car "sucks" afterward and expanded on this criticism at Dover in 2008 in noting how the CoT was "hitting a wall of air" in the wake of a leading car, thus neutralizing ability to close up on leaders.
Sprint Cup era
On April 4, 2008, while in a qualifying run for the 2008 Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Michael McDowell struck the wall outside of Turn 1 at 190 MPH, and proceeded to barrel-roll eight times as fire came from the engine compartment. McDowell emerged from the Toyota unharmed. The car was praised for its safety as impact of the crash was about 30 miles an hour more than Dale Earnhardt's fatal accident, but similar hits with the old car (such as Todd Bodine at Talladega in 1996) had produced identical effectiveness in safety, and safety features considered exclusive to the CoT could be implemented on the current stock car.
In the 2008 Brickyard 400, the longest run under green flag conditions was 12 laps due to extreme wear on right-side tires, especially the right rear. The CoT, in its first use at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, created no improvement of the conditions on the track, which is well known for its rough surface. The lack of downforce on the car and its higher center of gravity created conditions that made it very hard on the right side tires. During the race, the tires used on the cars generally lasted no more than 10 laps at a time.
It has been claimed that the bulky rear wing that was affixed to the rear of the car from 2007 to early 2010 increased to the severity of many on-track incidents by causing cars to flip over or go airborne. On the final lap of the 2009 Aaron's 499 at Talladega, Carl Edwards swerved into the path of Brad Keselowski; Keselowski turned Edwards into the air and Edwards's car bounced off of Ryan Newman's hood and flipped into the catch fence, then came to a rest in the middle of the track further down. Edwards was uninjured, but the crash was compared to an accident at Talladega in 1987 where Bobby Allison went airborne and hit the catch fence in a similar location. Allison's crash (coming at speeds 20 MPH faster than Edwards' crash) ripped out a 100-foot section of the catch fence, while Edwards' crash only bent the support poles. Seven spectators were injured in Edwards' accident from debris. The aftermath of the accident spawned questions about the aerodynamic features of the CoT, the nature of pack racing with restrictor plates, and the safety features of Talladega Superspeedway. Video replay showed that despite deploying, the car's roof flaps did nothing to stop the car from flipping – a common failing of the devices dating to their very first month in use – and the second hit from Newman flipped the car higher.
In the 2009 AMP Energy 500 - the fall race at Talladega, Ryan Newman was spun backwards at high speed in a late race crash, and then flipped backwards (landing upside down on Kevin Harvick's hood) and ended up on his roof. Mark Martin also barrel rolled in a crash during the same race, but instead of lifting in the air like Newman, his car was hit from behind, causing the weight of the car to shift to one side and pull the car onto its roof, rolling once. At the 2010 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta – the second to last race to use the rear wing – Carl Edwards appeared to make deliberate contact with Brad Keselowski, causing Keselowski to turn backwards and once more flip over despite the roof flaps being deployed. Keselowski flipped over once and crashed on his side door.
These three accidents - as well as the general consensus that the wing made the car look like a touring car - were factors in NASCAR's eventual decision, in February 2010, to replace the wing with a more traditional rear spoiler starting at Martinsville in late March. Denny Hamlin won the first race with the new/old spoiler, beating out Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth.
For the 2011 season, the car's splitter and nose configuration were redesigned. The splitter's braces were removed, and the splitter was made nonadjustable. The nose as a whole was given a cleaner, rounder look that resembled that of NASCAR's previous model, now dubbed the fourth-generation car, and manufacturers were given free rein to construct the lower grille area to reflect that of their NASCAR models' production-car counterparts. In the past, all cars were required to run the same exact grille arrangement, allowing for very little, if any, real differentiation between them.
The first racing with the redesigned car was the 2011 Daytona 500 and its supporting races (Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duels), all held on brand new pavement for Daytona International Speedway. The Daytona 500 broke long-standing records for leaders and lead changes, as 22 drivers changed the lead 74 times. But the story of the new car was a phenomenon of lock-bumper superdrafts - two cars would literally lock together and push into a clear lead, with speeds up to 10 MPH faster than with a conventional draft (on numerous occasions 2-car superdrafts topped 206 MPH); this phenomenon had debuted at Talladega Superspeedway in 2009 and in 2010 the result was a combined 175 lead changes for that track, but for Speedweeks 2011 it changed radically; three or four tandems of superdrafts would break clear of the pack and they generated a substantial aero push effect where air was impeding cars behind the lead group from passing the leaders. The phenomenon also led to a new level of "team" racing reminiscent of the team orders ethos common to Formula One; drivers would communicate with each other over radio to coordinate "swaps" instead of actually fighting for position. This was also present in the 2011 Aaron's 499 at Talladega, leading to a three-wide finish with three drafting teams contending for the win: Clint Bowyer (pushed by Kevin Harvick), Jeff Gordon (who was being pushed by Mark Martin, but separated before the finish line), and winner Jimmie Johnson (pushed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.), who won by two-thousandths of a second over Bowyer. A fourth drafting team, consisting of Roush-Fenway teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle (Biffle was pushing), squeezed in between the Bowyer/Harvick tandem and the wall, but only finishing 6th (Edwards) and 7th (Biffle).
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and veteran drivers such as Richard Petty and David Pearson were sharply critical of this new style of racing, especially in the wake of a race-record sixteen caution flags, most of them for crashes caused when pushing cars spun out leaders; Earnhardt, Jr. himself crashed during an attempt at a green-white-checker finish in the 500.
To dissuade the two-car tandem and return to pack racing, a new superspeedway package was introduced for the 2012 season, including a curved spoiler and a lower and longer rear bumper.
Gen 6 era
Fuel injection replaced the carburetor as the fuel distributor in the Car of the Tomorrow starting in 2012. For 2013, NASCAR allowed manufacturers to design a brand-new body style for the COT chassis that will resemble a given production car even more. The change is mostly cosmetic with hopes of returning mechanical grip to drivers. At the 2012 Ford Championship Weekend the body of the car made it the Gen 6 car by NASCAR. During the 2012 season, it was announced that Ford would use the Mk.V Ford Mondeo, known as the Fusion in North America, Toyota would continue to use the 2013 Camry, while the Holden VF Commodore, rebadged in North America as the Chevrolet Super Sport, will replace the Chevrolet Impala and Dodge announced they would use the Charger before announcing their withdrawal from the sport due to being unable to convince other teams to switch to Dodge after Penske Racing's switch to Ford.
Key among the changes for the car included a carbon fibre hood and decklid, shaving 150 pounds from Sprint Cup cars, and new improved safety bars.
This new "Generation Six" racecar debuted at the 2013 Daytona 500 and its supporting races. The testing and design of the car began in May 2010 and involved an unusual level of cooperation between the manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota) involved. The 500 and subsequent race at Phoenix International Raceway, however, caused controversy, as passing was limited and drivers such as Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin were critical of the car's ability to pass; the controversy was exacerbated when NASCAR fined Hamlin $25,000 over his comments. The view was also expressed that the car's slow development time and lack of available parts made drivers reluctant to take chances, with improvement expected with more time invested into the car.
- "Car of Tomorrow on track for Bristol debut", written February 1, 2007, nascar.com, Retrieved March 16, 2007
- NASCAR.com article, includes photographs
- NASCAR.com article on the first test at Daytona
- 2000 article about a UniTemplate car
- Benefits of Car of Tomorrow
- Newton, David (2007-03-25). "One race in, Car of Tomorrow does its job well — Racing — ESPN". ESPN. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
- David Caraviello (April 2, 2007). "Car of today, CoT seems like yesterday for Hendrick". www.nascar.com. Retrieved 2008-03-07.
- Jenna Fryer (February 28, 2007). "NASCAR may move COT to full schedule in 2008". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-03-01.
- Biography of Holman Moody at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Retrieved March 8, 2007.
- "RACELINE CENTRAL: The NASCAR Car of Tomorrow Specs". Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- Car of Tomorrow Full Time In 2008
- Newton, David. One race in, Car of Tomorrow does its job well, ESPN.com, March 25, 2007
- Blount, Terry. Kyle Busch loves the victory, hates the new car, ESPN.com
- Wells, Thomas (2007-03-27). "'Car of Tomorrow' debut causes wrecks at Food City 500 in Florida". The Daily Texan. Retrieved 2007-03-30.
- Hammond, Jeff (2007-03-27). "Gas 'n Go: Dale Jr.'s deal; foam fire fear". FOX Sports. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
- SpeedTV.com"CUP: NASCAR Midweek Notebook" Recovered: 11/25/07
- Jayski.com restrictor plate statistics
- Jayski's Silly Season Site – Dodge Past NASCAR News
- Car of Tomorrow: Fuzzy Math and Fuzzier Logic
- An examination of the CoT and John Darby
- Plenty Of Subplots At New Hampshire
- Postrace comments on 2008 Best Buy 400
- “” (2008-09-02). "Longest Nascar Crash Ever". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
- Car of Tomorrow and Brickyard Tough on Tires
- Columbian Missourian "Carl Edwards' last-lap crash injures seven fans" Retrieved May 6, 2009
- ESPN.com "Dega a disaster waiting to happen" Retrieved May 6, 2009
- Bosch to provide oxygen sensors for fuel injection at NASCAR.com
- Cain, Holly (2012-11-29). "Chevrolet unveils 2013 Sprint Cup Series car". NASCAR. Retrieved 2012-12-15.
- Smith, Marty (2012-08-07). "Dodge out of NASCAR at end of year". ESPN. Retrieved 2012-12-15.
- A Look At Development Of The 2013 NASCAR Race Car
- Controversy Over NASCAR Fine of Hamlin
- Post-Daytona 500 Analysis Of Gen-6 Racecar