It was faster, looked cooler, but did it race better? Going into 2013, everyone was eager to see the Gen-6 in race conditions and hopes were high for this next generation car. The goal with this new car was to take all the safety improvements used in the C.O.T and implement them into a car that was a bit easier on the eyes. The Gen-6 was certainly a step up from its cereal box with a wing predecessor and the manufacturers loved having their brand identity back. It’s been a while since we could last tell the difference between manufacturers by body style alone. NASCAR did a fantastic job bringing the stock look back into stock car racing but once you get past the sleek new look, one very important question still remains. How’s it race?
In the Daytona 500, the Gen-6 was brand new to drivers and after an unusually high amount of accidents during Speed Weeks, they were cautious. In fact, maybe a little too cautious. The race was dull and the finish was forgettable. Fans and the powers that be were nervous after the poor showing by the Gen-6 in what is supposed to be one of the most exciting races of the year. With NASCAR on edge and fans beginning to criticize the Gen-6, Denny Hamlin’s subtle criticism of the car following the second race of the season prompted NASCAR to fine him; a fine Hamlin refused to pay.
As the season progressed, drivers and teams started to get a handle on the new car and people seemed generally pleased with how it raced. It wasn’t perfect though. The cars are very aero-dependent and when a driver could get clean air, it was almost impossible to pass them even if the pursuing driver had a superior car under him. Kasey Kahne was reminded of this multiple times in 2013 after coming within a couple car lengths of victory lane on numerous occasions.
Statistically speaking, the number of green flag passes increased with the introduction of the Gen-6 but the racing didn’t seem to be much different than in previous years. It was certainly faster though and track records were broken on almost a weekly basis. Some believe that the high speeds are actually to blame for the lack of side-by-side battles on the track. Those who believe this claim that you can’t run door-to-door for an extended period of time with speeds over 200mph. NASCAR will make some minor tweaks in 2014, nothing too significant and although they did test a tapered spacer that would decrease horsepower, they decided not to utilize it next year.
Personally, I believe all this car really needs is time. Everyone wants to talk about how captivating the racing was with the Gen-4, which may be true, but to compare that with the Gen-6’s debut season is unfair. People forget that the Gen-4 was around for well over a decade and that’s why the racing was so good in the mid 2000’s. The Gen-6 puts a decent product on the track and it will only get better with time. We don’t need to overhaul the car every single year until we get something we like. We just need to build on what we already have.
Nick DeGroot is a staff writer for Rant Sports NASCAR. Connect with him on Twitter @ndegroot89