Manly Tools; NASCAR’s Smart Move

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - July 07, 2010
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Last Wednesday, June 30, at approximately 8:30 p.m. I became a man.

No, not that way, you perv. Remember this is a family publication, not Penthouse Forum.

After decades of getting by on half-stripped sockets and torqueless end wrenches and facing a brake repair and rotor replacement, I made the suddenly exciting journey to Sears, tossed the 94-piece Dual Marked Mechanics Tool Set upon the counter, grunted with Tim Taylor-like pride as I basked in the glow of the fatherly approval of the sales associates and walked out a more mature and confident man.

Before you start pointing your fingers and laughing, be warned that I’m no virgin in the seductive ways of forged steel flirtation. I’ve been turning these bad boy wrenches since I was old enough to steal them from my father’s ever-cluttered work bench. But until that fateful evening a week ago, I was a mere amateur, getting by with weaker sets while adding an occasional C-clamp, hammer, pliers, screw drivers, wrenches and various need-based sockets.


 

The next day I unwrapped the individual pieces and carefully placed them into the sturdy, hard-shell plastic home, the journey to manhood complete.

Which, of course, leads us to NASCAR.

NASCAR’s Nationwide Series is moving forward by taking a look back. It’s a decision the Sprint Series big boys would be wise to consider.

Unlike most other motor sports, brand matters as much as the driver in NASCAR. Before there was Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, there was Chevy, Ford and Dodge fighting for on-track supremacy and fan loyalty. It was not uncommon for NASCAR fans to abandon their favorite drivers simply because they traded brands. Indy has always had its stars, but nobody dumped a driver because the race team moved from Cosworth to the mandatory Honda power plant. A lot of that changed as NASCAR turned greater attention toward aerodynamics in an effort to increase performance. The result, along with the esthetics-challenged Car of Tomorrow - which former Penske Racing president Don Miller called “butt ugly” - has destroyed brand recognition as the cars have evolved into one-shape-fits-all racing platforms that make it nearly impossible to identify one manufacturer from another. Such technological changes haven’t affected other racing sports because none is so strictly tied to its manufacturing partners who used racing as a vehicle to sell their vehicles.

This was long the draw of NASCAR - fans could purchase the very same cars they saw racing on Sundays at their local dealership. Minus the rules-bending alterations, of course. The cars had personality. No one could mistake a Torino for a Roadrunner or a Cutlass for a Monte Carlo. Everyone had their favorite and no one got confused. Today, the only identifying characteristic is the decal. Swap the Toyota looped “T” for the Chevy bow tie and no one is the wiser.


NASCAR began the experiment Friday, and early returns suggest they have a hit. Fan interest around the track has increased as has the drivers’ willingness to talk up their new rides. The plan is to have these vehicles running full time next season. The models also have reinvigorated the muscle car battles that have laid dormant for decades. Ford has brought back the Mustang and will battle the Dodge Challenger for supremacy. Chevy is happy to continue with the Impala but is in danger of losing yet another battle to its four-letter competitor if it doesn’t throw its new Camaro into the fight. But it wouldn’t be the first fight the bow tie brand has lost in recent years.

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