In my opinion. When Dale Earnhardt died many years ago. I think the "air was let out" of Nascar. His fan base was so big and so powerful and so dedicated to Dale. He was Nascar period!
The much older Nascar fan base miss the gutted stock cars that were truly stock! Every year the major car manufacturers would come out with their new models and some would end up on a Nascar track. Basically gutted for safety purposes. And boy, could you stretch the "gray area" of the Nascar rules(sort of cheating) and get away with it!
Now a days. We are basically seeing the Nascar(IROC) car series! All cars are fabricated to look like current productions cars but are in no way similar. All manufacturers have an engine program as well.
The big separation in 2012 race teams is knowledge and experience and most of all.....money. But, experience gives way to so many changes by Nascar. So, then who ever learns to apply this newer technology should be faster on race day? That doesn't always apply either does it.
You have to be able to beat the best in order to take their place. That would be Team #48. The only problem there is.....they aren't going to give away any secrets! So, then how do you defeat your competition? That's right, knowledge gained by trial and error and thinking outside the Nascar box. But with so many race tracks going through so many changes in surface plus Nascar and all their constant changes....I can see what a struggle it is for most race teams! So, in knowing that. You would need almost a "real time" knowledge base of information...that doesn't exist!