On the off-chance that you actually care, the stars and cars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series are going to do something they only do twice a year in public this weekend: turn leftand right. I know, I know, I’ve just blown your fragile little minds. Where will this madness be taking place? Why, at Infineon (nee Sears Point) Raceway near Sonoma, the heart of NorCal’s world famous Wine Country, of course. But up until 1988, NASCAR’s west coast road course home was in the southern half of the Golden State, specifically at the iconic Riverside International Racewayin present-day Moreno Valley. In fact, the NASCAR race on June 12, 1988 was the last professional race on the facility’s fabled road course (a SCORE off-road race was the last professional race ever at the track). Of course, the cars that raced that day were based on production models available to the public, or at least their shapes were. And some of those production versions of NASCAR machinery still have fascinating stories to tell, beginning with the Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2.
When Ford brought out its curvaceous new Thunderbird in 1983, it immediately found success in NASCAR due to the fact that, aerodynamically speaking, it was light years ahead of the boxy GM G-bodies. (Chrysler’s presence had all but disappeared by that point.) In response, the General came up with a two pronged strategy for its NASCAR programs: Oldsmobile and Buick racers would be patterned after the coupe versions of the downsized, front-drive Delta 88 and LeSabre, respectively, while the Chevrolet and Pontiac teams would run versions of the existing Monte Carlo and Grand Prix bodies that were modified to poke smaller holes in the air. The Grand Prix 2+2 was Pontiac’s answer to this challenge, and was first proposed by Pontiac’s top driver, "King" Richard Petty, in 1983. The production car, like the eventual race car, featured an elongated, wedge-like nose with an air dam, a rear spoiler and, its signature attribute, a tapered fastback rear window. This last bit made for a trunk opening so tiny it was pretty much useless, but if you wanted something that could haul groceries, you’d buy a normal Grand Prix. Other equipment included two-tone paint, “Pontiac 2+2” decals for the doors, bucket seats, and stylized 15-inch steel wheels. And while the looks were certainly racy, performance certainly was not. Under hood sat a Chevrolet-derived 5.0L (305 cubic-inch) pushrod V8with a miserable-even-in-those-days 150hp, and those asthmatic, paraplegic ponies were sent to the rear wheels via a 200-4R 4-speed automatic. Production figures vary, but the tally is less than 1,500 units.