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NASCAR Pinning Big Hope On “Gen 6” Cars

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 22 2013

Talk of the impact of the new Sprint Cup cars has dominated the 2013 NASCAR Media Tour this week. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – This year’s car puts the stock back into stock car racing.

It’s a statement continuously heard on this week’s NASCAR Sprint Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway when competitors and officials talk about the 2013 cars known as “Gen 6”.

The manufacturers are happy about the way the cars look because they resemble the showroom models.

The drivers share their respective manufacturers’ enthusiasm for the cars’ appearance and are happy the way they drive.

And NASCAR hopes the return to race cars that resemble their passenger versions will rekindle the passion for the sport that many fans lost when the COT appeared.

“Obviously, we got away from some things that historically had worked well for us: The manufacturer rivalry, which we’re excited about; the relevance issue with the car manufacturers,” NASCAR Chairman Brian France said Tuesday during his annual Media Tour press conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “We certainly didn’t intend to do that, (we) intended to try to make racing better.

“Costs were a huge thing, as they still are today, and we did significantly bring costs down, and safety was a big thing as it is now. We significantly improved that. But it would be fair to say that in doing those things, we weren’t as in step as we are today with the manufacturers.

“I think we put a lot more focus in the new car into the rules package. I can tell you we didn’t put nearly as much science into the old car as we tried to achieve better racing.”

How the cars perform in a race won’t be known until next month at Daytona when the Sprint Unlimited kicks off Speedweeks. Still NASCAR officials, manufacturers and drivers are optimistic.

“If these cars race as good as they drive, it’s going to be an awesome year,” three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart said.

The cars’ rear end housing has been redone with NASCAR seeking to restore more mechanical grip to the cars. The hoods and decklids are carbon fiber, which means crews will no longer be able to alter a decklid’s shape by beating on it during a race, especially after a wreck. The teams will now have to go through a learning process on how to repair a car during a race since it no longer consists solely of sheet metal. NASCAR President Mike Helton also said the sanctioning body’s new laser measuring system would be used in conjunction with the metal templates, not replace them. The laser system “helps retain the accuracy of the car and shows the rest of the garage area” that the “measurements on everybody’s cars are the same,” Helton said.

Despite the excitement over the 2013 car, Richard Childress Racing driver Jeff Burton said NASCAR needs to look at other ways to attract new fans.

“This car has got to step up the competition, step up the quality of the races,” Burton said. “I, personally, don’t believe racing today is worse than it was 10 years ago, but we’re not racing 15 years ago. The X Games, computer games, all these things have changed the way people look at entertainment and look at how thrilled are they when they watch it. So we’ve got to bring something to the track that’s more fun than it used to be. Like we were isn’t good enough; it’s got to be better.

“I wish everybody in the world would watch a Cup race and say, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!’ but not everybody does that. We need something to create some more excitement that fans want to see. So what matters most is how the cars perform. I believe they’ll perform better; they’ll put on better races. Time will tell. We’ll see what happens.”

Even though no one is shedding a tear over the COT’s departure, Helton said the car’s historical value shouldn’t be ignored.

“We shouldn’t stick a dagger in the Gen-5 program and say, ‘Man, we’re glad you’re gone,’ because that era, that Gen-5, created a lot of great moments for NASCAR; the last two championships for one, a lot of races in its stable or its time in existence,” Helton said.

“It also led to the evolution of the collaborativeness that we now operate the sport by when it comes to the parts and pieces and the cars themselves.

“It also served very well in an era when the car manufacturers involved in our sport were struggling with their own businesses, and we weren’t a front burner topic to them. We had a car that could survive that era. So there’s a lot of positives to the Gen-5 era that we shouldn’t overlook as we celebrate the Gen-6.

“Now, I’ve got to tell you the enthusiasm and the energy around the car that we’ll see in 2013 on the Sprint Cup events is phenomenal, and it’s wonderful, and it’s everything that we want it to be. But it’s Gen-6, so there were five before it that gave us the opportunity to get to Gen-6, and we should never forget that.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 22 2013
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