This weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was arguably the first real test for the generation six race car. 16 of 36 Sprint Cup Series races are on mile and a half race tracks, many similar to the d-shaped Las Vegas track. Due to the cookie-cutter nature of the track, engineers will be able to transfer previous race data easier than they can for a track such as Phoenix International Raceway, where the series ran its second race of the season.
“Data” is a very loose term in NASCAR. The sport stands by its grass-root reliance on driver feeling and communication for adjustments. But cars are fitted for live data acquisition similar to Formula 1 during testing sessions, similar to the one that teams participated in the Thursday before the race.
Currently all the fan is observing with the generation is growing pains, with teams scrambling for anything productive. Teammates are running similar, basic setups, which doesn’t help during long green flag runs, where the field naturally spreads itself out.
Another reason for the extended single-file runs are the larger speed differential between big budget and small budget teams. Smaller teams are struggling to keep up because of the sheer lack of information that they can access thanks to the lack of testing. This direct correlation means that over the course of the green flag run fans see the field spread across large tracks faster than the previous generation car, and over the course of the race, less cars will finish on the green flag.
Lastly, the cars simply don’t spin easily by themselves, unlike the Car of Tomorrow’s first version from 2008. The adage that NASCAR viewers continue to hear is that cautions breed cautions. And it is true to an extent.
When driving on the edge, aerodynamics do wreak havoc on cars that run close together, and while the aerodynamic advantages presented in the generation six car have provided fans with great racing towards the end of races, the teams are currently not close enough to the ideal level of competition where the close racing is extended over the course of a green flag run.
Overall, there is no reason for panic. NASCAR fans are often times quick to critique and criticize new things within NASCAR, but overall this change has been welcome and highly anticipated. Over the course of the year and the career of this car, excitement on track should begin to match the fans high expectations.
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