The opening of the 2006 Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway, located in Avondale, Arizona, brought many changes. As the new season progresses, the changes will become more apparent. How these changes will be accepted by the racers and, more importantly, the fans, remains to be seen. USAC, NASCAR, and a few manufacturers have decided that 2006 shall become a watershed year for change. As with any change, it can be both a good thing and a bad thing.

Many people have a difficult time with change, while others embrace it. Racers as a whole, no matter how progressive they may think they are, always view change with trepidation, mistrust, and fear. Unless they see an advantage for themselves, racers view any change with a cautious eye. Another perception that seems to follow change is that costs will rise, no matter what the sanctioning bodies may say. For many, that perception is reality.

With the start of the '06 season, USAC rolled out the new version of the Silver Crown car. It was received with mixed reviews. This was not a surprise to anyone in the racing world. USAC has been very up front about the changes and why they are making them. Spectators will see changes in the look of the car, and drivers will experience a difference in the feel of the Silver Crown cars on the track. Please note that this change is not just some new body panel or rules that relate to a specific component.

The whole car has been redesigned. The only parts that remain the same are the engine, some of the driveline, and the brakes; everything else is new. The owners will see new costs and a good deal of perfectly good race cars relegated to collector's items. Some liked the look of the new car while others were perplexed as to what USAC was thinking. Several of the drivers, who have asked to remain unnamed, said the cars drove well but seemed to hit a wall as the speeds increased. This is due to the brick-like noses the cars are mandated to run.

USAC's intent was not to make the car slippery, from an aerodynamic perspective, but to generate drag and keep the cars equal rather than unequal due to any clever body modifications. This bodywork acts as an aero-restrictor plate and is there to help keep speeds in a reasonable range, as the plan for 2006 will have the Silver Crown cars on some 1.5-mile tracks. The intent was to improve the show for the fans by using a high aero-drag body to level the playing field. These USAC Sprinters were slower than the Southwest Tour cars, which have more weight and less horsepower. So, from that perspective, the aero package was working.

The new Silver Crown cars seemed to have a problem keeping the wheels attached to the axles. We observed a car going into Turn 1 and losing one of its wheels prior to entering Turn 2. Ordinarily, this could be attributed to poor pre-race preparation; but we also observed several cars in the pits with the wheel hubs covered with aluminum shavings from the wheels loosening up on the hub. There were also some problems with the clutches and transmissions.

In the pits, several cars were under repair because of a clutch, a transmission, or both. This may be due to drivers not being completely familiar with the clutch and transmission or the parts being too small to handle the amount of power being routed through them. Either way, only time will tell just how durable these parts will be. One has to remember that these are new cars and there will be some teething problems.