Brandon Wade/Getty Images for NASCAR

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

4 Comments

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.”

 

Atlanta Motor Speedway to delay repave at least a year

2 Comments

The cries of drivers have been heard. Atlanta Motor Speedway will not repave its track as previously scheduled. Instead, track officials will evaluate the surface following the 2018 race there.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track, had planned to have the track surface repaved beginning in late March. It would have been the first repave there since 1997.

Engineers examined the track after the March 5 race to determine if the track surface could last another year with modest repairs. Track officials also consulted with Goodyear and others.

“There’s no question that the surface is worn out, but probably the most powerful lobby this side of Washington, D.C., was the biggest influence,” Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, told NBC Sports of the drivers. “They kind of put the pressure on. I understand.”

After winning there, Brad Keselowski made his pitch not to repave the track.

“Drivers hate repaves,” he said. “We want to see the surfaces last as long as they can.  But the reality is nothing lasts forever, and this surface has made it a really, really long time, 20 years, I think, this season, and they should be really proud of that.

“My hope is they can get another year or two out of it, and I understand if they can’t, and you have to kind of leave it to their expertise and so forth.”

Clark said that work will need to be done to the track before next year’s race.

“The worst part is down the frontstretch in front of the grandstands,” Clark told NBC Sports. “There’s a lot of issues there. We’re actually going to have to cut a few areas and patch … to make it last through 2018. We consulted with Goodyear on that. They don’t think, as long as it is on the straightaway, it is a big issue from a tire standpoint.”

Clark said that the track surface will be sealed in October and should have the patching done before then.

“Let them go ahead and slip and slide one more time in 2018,” Clark said.

Clark said that while anything can change, he doesn’t foresee being talked out of a repave job too many more times.

“You have to see how the weekend goes and what happens,” Clark told NBC Sports. “We had to patch some places after the Saturday events this year, small places. Hey, if we could go two more, great. All you’ve got to do is walk out there and look at it. It is absolutely worn out. But if the drivers say, hey our choice is to race on this surface as it is.

“There comes a point (when a repave is needed). We do have a few drainage issues we do need to correct, some other things when the time comes. Right now, we’re going to get through 2018 and evaluate and see if that is the time or when is it.”

Clark said that when the track is repaved, Goodyear has expressed interest in having two test sessions to determine the proper tire for that 1.5-mile track instead of the customary one because of the track’s challenging surface.

Clark warns that with the excitement of Tuesday’s news, the day is still coming when the track will have to be repaved.

“I can’t see this going two more seasons, maybe only one,” Clark said.

 and on Facebook

 

 

NASCAR America — My Home Track: 50 States In 50 Shows — Arkansas

Leave a comment

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we continued our series of My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows as our trucks rolled into Arkansas!

We visited two short tracks in the state that produced President Bill Clinton and Basketball Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen.

Plus we talked to NASCAR Hall of Famer and Arkansas native Mark Martin about racing in his home state.

NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

2 Comments

It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

Leave a comment

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.