Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito: 2 Noteworthy Absences Next Weekend at Michigan – Neither of Which Make Sense

Next week I was tentatively scheduled to cover the action over the weekend at Michigan International Speedway. Unfortunately, I had a conflicting engagement and will not be able to be there. At first I was pretty bummed out; I was rather looking forward to seeing the new Nationwide Musclecar of Tomorrow – from Yesterday – up close and personal. Yes, DP will be there as well, but so will R/T and GT, the two I was all pumped to see. However, along with VP’s absence from MIS, there is one other glaring omission from next weekend’s festivities in the back 40 of the Motor City – SS.

As in Camaro SS. Or RS. Or Z/28. Or in other words, who is the visionary at within the motorsports marketing nook of General Motors that absolutely refuses to pedal one of the coolest cars to come down the pike of the last decade, in a national racing series that is literally designed for it?

Actually, that individual is Mark Kent. Recently AutoWeek interviewed him and inquired as to why something so many are begging to happen from the company that is synonymous with NASCAR, as to why they would deny a request that on the outside appears to require less thought that Jimmie Johnson attempting to bump draft somebody… anybody.

“We’ve looked at racing the Camaro and one thing we do not want to do is to force the car where it shouldn’t be,” Kent said. “We looked at NASCAR, for example – took a very hard look at running the Camaro in the Nationwide Series. That was a request made of us by NASCAR and we have had a tremendous partnership with NASCAR, so we took a very hard look at it.

“At the end of the day, because of the quest for very close competition and the need to have template bodies in that series, we felt that by forcing the Camaro into the Nationwide templates that we were compromising the body lines of an iconic car. So at the end of the day we just could not get the Camaro in the Nationwide Series to satisfy our requirements.

And instead the car that gets them all hot and bothered is the Impala. A car so bland, boring, numb and uninspired, it should be offered in but one color: beige.

Chevrolet’s Impala has looked the same since the original disaster in the Gulf of Mexico five years ago; the only real change has been it has dropped its SS model and the 303 horsepower 5.3L V8 that powered it. The car that from the side profile looks the same if it is coming or going looks more comfortable and at home in an Avis lot than on the grid at the Glen.

If you own one, I apologize; I’m sure they are safe, economical, reliable machines – however they do not contain one sporting bone in their body and look equally out of place next to the other mind-numbingly vanilla machine out there compared to the Dodge and Ford offerings in the Nationwide Series, the Toyota Camry. Which I think is Japanese for “unsalted rice cake.”

Chevrolet personnel have also since stated that they are in the business of selling Impalas. If they would follow the lead of their cohorts, they might want to get into the business of selling Camaros.

July sales figures were released on Tuesday for all automakers, and lo and behold, look what is going on between the Camaro and the Mustang in the showrooms across America: Mustang: 7,489 ponies pedaled, versus the Camaro clocking in with 7,486. A difference of three friggin’ vehicles! What’s more, the Dodge Challenger, which is a lower-volume machine, saw a 317% increase from a year earlier, enjoying its best sales month since it hit the road nearly three years ago; which just so happened to coincide with its return to racing at Daytona over the July 4th weekend.

During this same period, Chevrolet sold 14,565 Impalas – which carry a $4,000 rebate or 0% financing for 72 months. The Camaro? Nothing. It doesn’t need it. Why? Because it looks awesome and provides more bang for the buck than just about anything on the road – next to a 2011 5.0L Mustang GT – or a 376-horsepower Dodge Challenger R/T.

Glad to see that “realignment” and salvaging of General Motors made such am impact of preventing the empowerment of people to make the kinds of remarkably poor and short sighted decisions that led them to where they ended up to begin with.

Oh well. I’ll be in Detroit the following weekend anyway, the same time the Woodward Dream Cruise will be underway – so at least I’ll get to see something cool after all.

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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