Gen 6 Cup Cars Prove Comfy-Cozy For Gen 6 Drivers
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
If you’re an old-schooler – one who thinks that stock car racing was better back in the day because driving cars that were actually showroom-based offered a better test of men and machine than have modern Sprint Cup cars – the new Gen 6 vehicles tested this week at Charlotte are not likely to satisfy.
Without a doubt, the Fords, Chevrolets and Toyotas which hit the Charlotte Motor Speedway track for two days this week looked a whole lot more stock than did the previous couple generations. And that was quite refreshing.
But drive like them? Test driver abilities and courage like them? Not so much.
This past fall, over lunch at Kansas Speedway with a couple of people who drove cars that actually had some stockiness to them, talk turned to new-school cars and drivers.
The prevailing sentiment as people began taking their paper plates and plastic forks to the garbage receptacles was: actual stock cars were mothers to drive fast.
Randy LaJoie, one of those who took part in the Kansas Lunch Table Session, said that at first he didn’t think that driving the older cars was that difficult.
But then, during races, he would glance over at the other cars on the track and notice that his competitors were flaying away like crazy with elbows and hands and shoulders inside their cockpits.
Those drivers, LaJoie remembered, would be the ones whipping past him en route to podium finishes and kisses on the cheek from bee hive-quaffed female trophy presenters. Drivers like tough-guys Richard Petty and David Pearson and Cale Yarborough.
The current cars, LaJoie said, were relatively simple to drive – even at 200 mph. And today’s drivers? Spoiled and complaint-prone.
All that was last season. The final season for the Gen 5 Cup cars.
The consensus among the 16 drivers who tested Gen 6 cars at Charlotte seemed to be: Faster, more grip and, easier to drive than Gen 5.
The 2013 Cup cars feature new body styles which are purposely designed to look more showroom than those of the preceding couple of generations. They also have less weight, more rear camber, a bigger rear spoiler and new rear suspension rules that include the elimination of the rear sway bar.
It all added up to more downforce and faster laps as the cars hugged the asphalt through the CMS quad-oval’s corners.
“My line has gone more to a Nationwide line, I will say that,” driver Joey Logano said when asked about the new car’s poise. “Having more downforce it doesn’t feel like you have as much straightaway speed, so you’re able to arc the corners more. The cars handle better, so it goes more to that. The big thing, I think, in traffic that I think changed the cars a lot is you took a lot of that yaw away, so the cars aren’t sideways anymore.”
Other drivers, like Dale Earnhardt Jr., called the new cars more “comfortable”.
“I really don’t miss all the stuff we were moving around in the back of these cars last year, I don’t miss any of that stuff,” Earnhardt said at Charlotte. “It did make the cars go faster, but they were a little bit more of a challenge to drive. The sensations that you got going off in the corner crooked weren’t a lot of fun. This is awesome for me personally I kind of like going in the corner with the car going straight, like it’s supposed to. I’m enjoying this.”
Will easier to drive, more enjoyable to drive, translate to better racing for fans once the cars start competing in anger in February? TBD.
The cars which were tested this week are not the finished product. NASCAR will head back to the the Research and Development Center and tweak. Plus, weather and track conditions at CMS were cool and, hence, optimum for fast laps.
But one thing is certain: old-school he-men will not be breaking from the time-honored tradition of tsk-tsking a further separation from a time when Pearson’s daring and Yarborough’s muscular forearms had as much to do with winning stock car races than increasing camber and decreasing yaw.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment