A pair of big racing developments take place this weekend, and you probably haven't heard much about the most radical of the two.
There's been plenty of hype about NASCAR grounding the rear wings on its Sprint Cup cars after two years and returning to the traditional, flat spoilers on rear deck lids. Teams spent two days testing the spoilers to be ready for Sunday's race on the half-mile paper clip at Martinsville, Va.
But the demise of the NASCAR wing pales when compared to the NHRA's most recent flight of fancy.
Today marks the opening of the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte Motor Speedway's zMAX Dragway.
"Four wide" is what will happen in professional categories during this weekend's NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event. Cars will line up four abreast today for qualifying in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Sunday's elimination format includes four sets of four vehicles in the first round, with the top two from each group advancing to the next round of eight. The top two from those groups form the four-car championship round.
Fans will be treated to what the NHRA calls "double the fun," but they also will be cheated out of one elimination round because the eventual champion will have to run only three times.
While NASCAR has logged hundreds of miles in testing to prepare for the reintroduction of spoilers, the NHRA had only two sets of four-wide runs at zMAX last fall to set standards for this weekend's racing. It is the world's only four-lane dragstrip with an added guardwall in the middle to separate each pair of lanes.
"We still aren't 100 percent sure how they're going to handle the Christmas tree and the starting system," said Jack Beckman, who won the first two-car Charlotte title in Funny Car in 2008 and hopes to add the first four-wide title. "I know they've been soliciting a lot of opinions from the drivers. We're going to have a drivers' meeting on Friday when we get there, and I think it's going to be a learning curve for all of us."
Steep learning curves are why cars test.
No doubt it will be exhilarating when four 8,000-horsepower nitro racers fire at the same time. It just seems that such a trial balloon shouldn't be launched during a points-paying, championship race.
As I've written before about four wide, it is a no-win proposition: If it fails, that's a big loss; and if it is the greatest thing since superchargers and nitromethane fuel, then it diminishes the entertainment value of the series' other 22 events.
Unless this weekend's event is a fiasco, expect an announcement from Las Vegas Motor Speedway when the tour visits next month that it will become a four-lane dragstrip. But there probably aren't any venues other than Charlotte and Las Vegas with the real estate or funds to go four wide.
Four-lane dragstrips can be a boon for exhibition races and regional events, but not as one event in a series.
Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0247. Visit Wolf's motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.