Daytona 500 2013: Assessing Impact of Gen-6 Cars After Season's Opening Race

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIFebruary 25, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 24:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Fastenal Ford, Trevor Bayne, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, and David Gilliland, driver of the #38 Love's Travel Stops Ford,during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

One race into the season and the effects of NASCAR’s shift to the Generation-6 race car are already being felt. The 2013 Daytona 500 was less than spectacular for much of the first 450 miles. Things got interesting towards the finish, but it seemed to be a little too late after a day of single-file driving.

These new rides were pegged as more life-like, matching them more closely to the cars you and I drive every day. When the smoke cleared at the checkered flag, they ended up looking more like our cars on the highway, but with less passing.

Drivers had problems passing because of a side draft created by the new model cars, resulting in the car slowing when attempting to do so.

The reviews weren’t all negative, though, despite the underwhelming results at Daytona.

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 55 Toyota, was vocal about his appreciation of the new vehicles following the race. He said the following, according to Randy Kovitz of The Kansas City Star:

You couldn’t pass much, but one of the things that made it hard to pass was nobody … would get organized on the bottom. The top groove was the preferred groove, and I don’t think that had a lot to do with the Gen-6 as much as everybody was flying … the cars were fast, and the cars seemed to the momentum you’d get off the corner.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who placed one spot ahead of Martin in second place, had nothing but positive reviews about the car’s performance, too.

That’s to be expected, though, for two drivers who finished in the top three of the field.

Carl Edwards wrecked four times during race week at Daytona, including being involved in the nine-car wreck that sidelined several top drivers for the duration of the race.

The biggest issue remains that drivers opted to run the race primarily in a methodical single-file manner rather than taking chances and advancing themselves forward. Drivers worried about not being able to get back into their spot in line, as the race was stopped frequently.

“You had a restart, and that would shuffle around for three laps, and then we’re all in line. … Once you got in that single file, it would be foolish to pull out,” Jimmie Johnson said, according to Cary Estes of Sports Illustrated.

Daytona is a restrictor-plate track, so we’ll continue to monitor things closely as NASCAR moves to Phoenix next weekend. They’ll leave the restrictor plates at home and we will, perhaps, get a better look at these new vehicles with a different viewpoint.

Another poor showing for the field in Phoenix, though, might start to raise even more questions about the durability and effectiveness of these new cars.