Can NASCAR'S New Gen 6 Car Save Racing?

By Les Bailey


Preseason Thunder
Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

When I hear various people talk about how the economy is hurting the attendance and popularity of  NASCAR racing, I continue to preach from the soap box that dull, boring action on the race track is what is causing the decline, and not the economy. In my opinion, if they can return racing to 1999, they will attract 1999-type crowds and television viewers. I’m excited about the new Gen 6 car, but have maintained guarded optimism that it can resurrect the sport. The following quote after day 1 of the preseason testing session concerns me.

Following Thursday’s afternoon session, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton spoke about how the collective effort of the industry has been key to the Gen-6 car’s development. John Darby, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director, reiterated the positive feelings about the new car, and was particularly impressed with the close competition during Thursday’s test.

“When you look at the enormity of the project … and basically putting three brand-new models of race cars out on a race track … and put speeds up that are within a tenth of a second of each other [emphasis mine] – it is an incredible, incredible effort,” Darby said. “I truly believe there is not another racing series in the world that could accomplish what these guys did since we left Homestead.”

The fact that NASCAR is happy that the speeds between the three manufactures are within a tenth of a second is still going to be a problem. Other than drive-ability, this was one of the bigger problems with the COT Car. The Gen 6 car will suffer the same fate if NASCAR continues to put controls on competition that don’t allow manufacturers and teams to find competitive advantages. This was the nuts and bolts of NASCAR racing for half a century.

Fans that have been around for a while will remember the old IROC Series that was run every year at selective race tracks, where selected drivers from all around racing would drive identically set up and tuned Pontiacs. All cars were set up, and tuned by one person with the objective being to find the best drivers. It was great for a couple of races, but four or five races a year was enough.

When racing was at it’s best, NASCAR put up very loose specifications that gave teams and manufacturers the leeway to find extra speed, tire grip, and aerodynamics. Team could experiment with shock packages, chassis set-ups and aerodynamics. The only rule NASCAR maintained was the body style had to be in production, and available to the general public (thus stock car racing).

NASCAR should mandate safety requirements for cars and tracks that keep drivers safe, but other than that, they should get out of the way and let the big dogs eat.

Day two of Preseason Thunder continues on Friday from Daytona International Speedway, with both morning and afternoon sessions where teams can get the new ride ready for the Daytona 500 next month. Matt Kenseth dominated the morning session on Thursday, and ran second to team mate Denny Hamlin in the afternoon session. Maybe this is the year of the Toyota Camry. 2013 will be the first time since Toyota came to Sprint Cup competition without the COT, and allowed to run their body style.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict a Toyota will hoist the Sprint Cup Trophy in Homestead this fall.


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