Big changes are happening in 2013 to stock car racing.
Besides some major team changes within the sport, NASCAR is getting ready to unveil a new model of car, the Gen-6.
Testing for the Gen-6 car has been going on all offseason, and the car has the potential to change NASCAR as we know it.
Some of the changes will be more like a throwback to how the sport looked before the Car of Tomorrow debuted in 2007. Other changes will be a little less noticeable but will eventually help make NASCAR even more exciting.
Drivers have been praising the new car, and when the 2013 season is fully underway, racing as we know it could change for the better.
The biggest and most obvious change the Gen-6 car will bring to NASCAR is a sense of individuality among the different NASCAR manufacturers. The Toyota race cars will seem more like the Toyota Camry, the Ford cars like the Ford Fusion and the Chevrolet cars like the Chevy SS.
Fans will be able to see differences between manufacturers. The differences will no longer just be under the hood.
“I think we now have three makes out here that my little boy at nine years old can tell the difference between,” Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, said (via NASCAR.com). “And I think that’s the goal. That anybody can walk through the parking lot and see a Chevy, Ford and Toyota and know they’re different.”
The brand individuality that the Gen-6 car is bringing to NASCAR is a throwback to the older days of the sport, where fans could clearly tell the difference between manufacturers.
The Not-So-Obvious Changes
Besides the body of the Gen-6 car, it is bringing other changes to NASCAR as well.
The new car will be 160 pounds lighter than the Car of Tomorrow, and driver weight will also be reduced 200 to 180 pounds.
A forward roof bar and center roof support bar were added to the roll cage. They make the roof stronger and increase the crush structure. Roof flaps have been increased in size, which will help prevent the cars from becoming airborne.
A taller spoiler was added to help keep downforce numbers close together across the three different types of Gen-6 car bodies. The spoiler, plus the camber rules implemented in NASCAR, will help give drivers better rear grip, which, along with a lighter car, will make the Gen-6 model easier to handle than the Car of Tomorrow.
The tires used for the Gen-6 car will also be different. NASCAR tested a different tire for the new car back in October in 2012 and seems to be hopeful that the new tire will help reduce aero dependency.
NASCAR's vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, said (via NASCAR.com):
Moving into 2013 we've worked hand in hand with Goodyear and their engineers to get a plan together to build tires specifically for this new race car and optimize the grip. We have built this car with the mind-set that we are going after more of a mechanical grip and reduce some of the aero dependencies of the car for 2013.
Some of the new changes the Gen-6 car is bringing to NASCAR might not be obvious at first, but if the changes work like NASCAR has planned, 2013 will be an exciting year for stock car racing.
What It All Means
The Gen-6 car is bringing some changes to NASCAR. But what does it all mean?
Besides giving fans something different to look at, the new car will hopefully bring some much-needed excitement to the 1.5-mile "cookie cutter" tracks.
Reduced aero dependency and a new tire that gives drivers more grip, might mean that one driver won't be able to dominate the race at "cookie cutter" tracks, which we saw a lot of last season.
Drivers will get more handling out of the car, which will help when passing in traffic.
"The car drives down in the corner, turns off the corner, really good," Earnhardt Jr. said over at ESPN.com. "All the stuff we were moving around in the back of the car last year, I don't miss any of that. So this is awesome for me. I like going into the corner with the cars going straight like they're supposed to. I'm enjoying this."
Along with basic changes to handling, speeds have also increased with the Gen-6 car.
"Everything is a step in the right direction," Denny Hamlin said, via ESPN.com. "The only thing that scares me is the speed that we're running."
Of course, with increased handling and speeds, NASCAR has improved safety with changes to the roof bars, as mentioned before.
The Gen-6 car is still in testing and will probably remain a work in progress once the 2013 season starts.
Still, with several key changes, this new car model looks set to make a big impact on NASCAR. The Gen-6 car has the possibility to even the playing field and make NASCAR less about having the fastest car on the track and more about driving ability.
The Gen-6 car will bring positive changes to NASCAR and will move stock car racing in the right direction.
For more information about the Gen-6 car, check out NASCAR.com.