Actually, Startvalve, the starting grid is (as it has been) 43 cars, not fifty, but you and I are more close on our opinions than you might think. I don't have to read up on when NASCAR was real"er" racing because I've been involved with it professionally for quite a time and I clearly stated that I disagree with the "spec" car philosophy that homogenizes all the vehicles into a genre rather than letting the manufacturers run their own thing as in the "old days". Although it might have been fun (for a short while) to watch North/South FWDs and the more pitiful East/West FWD sedans try to maintain high speed racing for several hundred miles, I'm afraid that the correct choice was made in retaining "small block" pushrods driving rear wheels. That the fantasy of FWD being a saviour for the masses is finally being realised as such and thankfully RWD Monte Carlos, Chryslers and such are on the horizon. I didn't like the bent-formula allowing non-available powertrains on the circuit either, but retrospectively, the only "size class" 2-dr RWD production cars available when the rules were changed were T-Birds and Cougars.
As archaeic that it might sound, dollar for dollar and power vs operational reliability, there is probably no better IC
powerplant than the "evolved" small block pushrod Chevy, and I dare say that includes any zoomy cammer. There is evolving for you. NASCAR has been working for a while on replacing carbs w/ FI
; when that will happen, I don't know. Probably a good idea as power could be more correctly (and safely) dialed in rather than the, yes stupid, restrictor plate rule. I can testify that quite a few little NASCAR tricks have found their ways into production vehicles, not the least being little aero items that the customer will not notice but that the manufacturers sweat millions in development costs in the wind tunnel to meet CAFE/EPA government hurdles.
As for diluted driver talent, I don't think that forty-three top drivers out of a nation of 260,000,000 people is diluted (although I some serious reservations about some drivers). I'll agree with you, though, that the Busch Series should be a series to compete successfully in before you can race in the Cup Series and Cup drivers should not be allowed. Yes, you're right, a better driver can often beat a better car. But the driver and car are a unit, and combined with the rest of the team players in the pits and shops will often win. Ain't that the way it usually works out in other racing venues too? And don't forget that cheating added a lot to many winner's circles in the good ole days; it wasn't just what comapny built the "better car".
As for the analogy of paddle shifters showing up on production cars from F1 being an advancement, you make a case for my personal opinion that a race car driver should have the talent, motor skills and dexterity to, well, be able to correctly shift the damn thing rather than press a button like in a 56 Packard or a 58 Edsel. Regards...Jack