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Kligerman: A sound opinion about the noise appeal of race cars

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It may seem odd to put NASCAR and Porsche in the same sentence.

But these two iconic brands have fans who are more intrinsically connected than you could imagine.

Not in the sense that Porsches ever have turned a lap in the Daytona 500. Nor in the sense that NASCAR fans own Porsches.

I would go out on a limb to say there is probably an almost immeasurably small amount of self-described NASCAR fans who own a Porsche.

The link between NASCAR and Porsche is far more cerebral.

And there’s an important lesson to be learned about the latest controversy gripping NASCAR this week: Noise reduction.

The longtime NASCAR fan often laments the days of old, remarking how much better things were “back in the day.”

The Porsche fan and owner is no different. Old Porsches have skyrocketed in value as a freakish cult infatuation with any Porsche whose engine is “air-cooled” has driven demand well past comprehension.

And just like the move from air-cooled to water-cooled in 1998, every single change (even when it’s what Porsche engineers have decided is better) draws a litany of angrily-written-in-perfect-grammar posts and comments flooding the internet.

Most recently in 2015, Porsche announced it was replacing the venerable, beloved flat, six-cylinder engine in the Boxster and Cayman, the younger brother to the iconic 911.

They now would have a turbocharged 4-cylinder and be known as the 718. Removing the legendary, high-strung, wailing flat 6 was utter and complete blasphemy for the purists and the Porsche-piles.

Gone would be the sound synonymous with Porsche – a classic, crisp growl that would reach a crescendo at the top of the rev range in a symphony of engineering excellence.

Replacing it would be a much more reserved, timid growl and burbly overture. To understand the resulting irreverence, look no further than the hundreds of YouTube videos simply comparing the sounds of the old car vs. the new.

The new 718 Cayman and Boxster are faster with better looks, better handling, better interior and better fuel efficiency. As many reviews have stated, it is a better car in almost every way… except the sound.

I can speak from experience that Porsche dealers have entered an unenviable position in trying to sell you on every one of those attributes of the new 718. The problem is, even they know the reality.

It just doesn’t sound the same.

Why did Porsche do this? To see how many angry forum posts could be generated?

No (as funny as that might seem). It’s a sign of the times.

Fuel-mileage regulations have forced automakers continually to chase ever-increasing mpg standards. They must become innovative with their designs, and much of this has led to go the downsizing, turbocharged route.

The lesson?

Sound is important. It is one of a few senses that remind us we are living, breathing mammals in a vibrant world. Those who do not have it lament its loss and have described the frustration, loneliness, and isolation of being deaf.

That’s why outrage greeted the news this week that NASCAR was considering a reduction in the ear-splitting level of noise. It was met with the utter disgust of being told your home owners’ association won’t let you have your dog anymore.

Let’s be honest. NASCAR fans have put up with a lot of change over recent years. From formats, overtime procedures, car design and how a champion is decided.

Through it all, some things have remained the same — like the almost 60-year-old design of the Porsche 911.

For the better part of the same timeframe, NASCAR vehicles have been front engine, rear-wheel-drive, naturally aspirated V8s. That’s allowed the sound to almost be a constant.

And this is why I wonder “Why change now?” with the current state within the sport.

Unlike Porsche we don’t have government regulatory bodies telling us what to do. We don’t have to change anything. The only people we need to satisfy are the fans – who have been coming to hear the same sound for 60-plus years.

I saw one fan comment “It’s a sound that can literally be felt in the chest when you’re in the stands.” Why would you take this away?

But on the flip side, I can see the reasoning.

As I have entered the world of broadcasting (and have spent more of my life at racetracks than not), I have commented many times that it would be nice if the cars were quieter. The thing is, I am being selfish. Sure it would be easier to do my TV job, and even when I am racing, it would be less headache-inducing.

But I also am being paid to be at race tracks. It’s not about me or the executives trying to entertain VIPs. The sound is for the very people that make our jobs possible — the fans.

Therefore, NASCAR should take cues from the unfortunate situation in which Porsche finds itself. Be careful about altering the sound and remember the futility of the Porsche salesman who can name all the improved attributes of the 718.

We have provided many better changes. Let’s not allow anyone to say, “But it just doesn’t sound the same.”

 

Xfinity crew chief Chris Gabehart penalized $5,000 for loose lug nut at Indy

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NASCAR has issued one penalty resulting from last weekend’s races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Chris Gabehart, crew chief for the No. 20 Xfinity Series car of Joe Gibbs Racing, was fined $5,000 on Wednesday.

Gabehart was penalized for violating Sections 10.4 and 10.9 of the NASCAR Rule Book covering Tires and Wheels: Lug nut(s) not properly installed at the conclusion of the Lilly Diabetes 250.

There were no other penalties related to last weekend’s Xfinity or NASCAR Cup races in Indianapolis or the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.

Richard Childress Racing to announce plans for a third Cup team ‘at a later date’

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With Paul Menard and his family’s home improvement chain sponsorship on the move to Wood Brothers Racing for 2018, Richard Childress Racing has a major funding gap to address.

Menards has adorned the No. 27 Chevrolet for RCR for seven consecutive Cup seasons and is among the last full-season sponsors in NASCAR’s premier series. It assuredly is the most lucrative of RCR’s sponsorships.

Though the team is committed to fielding Chevys for Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon next season, the impending departure of Menard leaves questions about whether RCR will remain a three-car team in 2018.

In a statement Wednesday morning, team chairman and CEO Richard Childress said the team “will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.”

Here’s the full statement from Childress:

Paul Menard and Menards, Inc. have had a partnership with RCR for seven years. Together, we have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, including Paul’s emotional win at Indianapolis in 2011. He is a very talented driver and a good friend. Everyone at RCR wishes both Paul and Menards nothing but the best in the future.

Our entire RCR organization is 100 percent focused on getting all three of our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series programs in the playoffs this year, and bringing another Cup championship to RCR in 2017.

We will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.

 

Paul Menard will move to the Wood Brothers for 2018 season

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Paul Menard will join Wood Brothers Racing next season, the team announced Wednesday. He will replace Ryan Blaney, who will move after this season to run a third Cup car for Team Penske.

Menards will sponsor the car in 22 races. Additional sponsorship, including plans for long-time partner Motorcraft/Quick Lane, will be announced later. The technical alliance between Team Penske and the Wood Brothers will continue.

“It’s fantastic to have the ability to continue to race in the highest level of motorsports full-time and something we look forward to doing with Paul for years to come,” said co-owner Eddie Wood in a statement. “I know this will allow us to continue to perform as an organization and will give Paul a great opportunity to go out there and compete for wins. Paul is not only a great driver with a lot of experience in the Cup Series, but he’s great with partners, which is a big part of what we do these days. We are looking forward to finishing out this season with Ryan (Blaney), going for more wins and maybe even a championship, and continuing that with Paul in 2018.”

Said Menard: “I’ve really enjoyed my time in NASCAR and as a Cup Series driver, but to get the chance to drive the iconic No. 21 for the Wood Brothers is the coolest thing I’ve ever got a chance to do. I’m looking forward to working with the team, working with Roush Yates, Ford Performance and Team Penske to see what we can do. Ryan (Blaney) has done a fantastic job and is a constant threat to run up front. Hopefully, we can do the same thing and keep the momentum going into 2018 and beyond.”

Also, Menard will run a handful of Xfinity races for Team Penske next year.

Menard had been with Richard Childress Racing since 2011, scoring his lone Cup victory — the 2011 Brickyard 400 — with the organization.

Menard’s best finish in the points with the organization was 14th in 2015. He is 23rd in the points with no wins, two top fives and three top-10 finishes this season.

The move marks the fourth organization the 36-year-old Menard has raced full-time for in his Cup career. He drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc. from 2007-08, Yates Racing from 2009-10 and Childress since.

Car owner Richard Childress issued a statement:

“Paul Menard and Menards, Inc. have had a partnership with RCR for seven years. Together, we have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, including Paul’s emotional win at Indianapolis in 2011. He is a very talented driver and a good friend. Everyone at RCR wishes both Paul and Menards nothing but the best in the future.
“Our entire RCR organization is 100 percent focused on getting all three of our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series programs in the playoffs this year, and bringing another Cup championship to RCR in 2017.
“We will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.”

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Ryan Blaney to join Team Penske in 2018

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Ryan Blaney will move to Team Penske and drive a third Cup car for that organization, the team announced Wednesday.

Blaney will drive the No. 12 Ford in 2018 and has signed a multi-year contract extension.

“For some time now, we have wanted to bring Ryan in to run a third car for us, but things just needed to make sense from a timing and business perspective,” said team owner Roger Penske.  “We have been working on making this a reality and 2018 is the right opportunity to make this move and return our organization to a three-car team. The benefits of having three full-time teams under our roof, along with the continued technical partnership with the Wood Bothers, will help us remain competitive in the ever-changing NASCAR landscape.”

MORE: Paul Menard to take over Wood Brothers ride in 2018

Blaney, who won at Pocono in June, is 12th in the standings. He has seven top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season.

“This is a huge opportunity for me and my career,” said Blaney, a third-generation driver from High Point, North Carolina, in a statement. “I’ve always enjoyed racing whatever car I was in and trying to win each and every race. I’ve had some great moments with both Team Penske and the Wood Brothers over the last few years. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without Roger (Penske), Eddie and Len (Wood) and the opportunities their organizations have given me. I’m thrilled knowing that Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano) are long-term teammates for me at Team Penske and Paul (Menard) will have input with our team now that he’s with the Wood Brothers organization. Hopefully we can go out there and win races and compete for championships year after year.”

The 23-year-old Blaney first signed with Team Penske in 2012. He has raced for Wood Brothers Racing, which is aligned with Team Penske, since 2015. He ran about half the 2015 season and has done the full season the past two years for the organization.

This marks the first time since 2010 that Team Penske has fielded three full-time entries. It did so that season with Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr.

With adding a third car, Team Penske will need to acquire a charter for that car.

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