The new car debuting this season, the Gen-6, was the talk of NASCAR in the offseason, and it has been a major focus (though not as big as Stenica) so far this season.
Even though it’s still early in the 2013 NASCAR year, opinions are already developing about the Gen-6 car.
While a big focus was brand individuality, some things have changed besides the way the cars look.
Has the car changed NASCAR for the better, though? Or does NASCAR still need to work out several issues as the season moves forward?
The Gen-6 so far has clearly been a step in the right direction. From basic changes like an increase in safety and even an increase in speeds, the new car NASCAR unleashed this season is the start of something great.
Here are five early opinions about NASCAR's Gen-6 car.
The Gen-6 has generally been a step in the right direction for NASCAR.
And while tires have also been improved, work still needs to be done in order for them to match the speed of the Gen-6.
Phoenix on Sunday was a perfect example of how tires will be a major area of concern with the new car, as a handful of drivers ran into tire troubles.
Danica Patrick blew a tire and ended up in the wall, and her Stewart-Haas teammate Ryan Newman had two separate tire issues as well, both times resulting in him making contact with the wall.
The Gen-6 is bringing back brand individuality, but with the faster speeds of the new car, tire maintenance is quickly becoming an issue.
When it comes to superspeedway racing, the Gen-6 has taken one step forward and two steps back.
The new car managed to cut down dramatically on bump-draft racing.
Unfortunately, though, the new car has seemingly made it impossible to pass on these bigger tracks.
During the Daytona 500, drivers basically raced around in a single-file line, afraid to try to pass someone without a little help on the outside lanes.
If a driver did try to make a pass, they ended up going backward and lost a lot of track position.
The Gen-6 was supposed to fix the issue of bump drafting, and while it did limit drivers to only drafting when they needed to try to make a pass, it seemingly made it impossible for racing as well.
Hopefully, NASCAR can fix the issues with the Gen-6 and find a way for drivers to pass one another without needing to team up.
Until then, though, superspeedway racing still needs to be improved.
The Gen-6 has made it possible to tell the difference between a Chevy, Ford and Toyota just by looking at the car.
It's also made it possible for fans to tell the difference by looking at what cars end up in the garage.
Toyota has clearly struggled so far during the start of the season.
From three top 10 Toyotas all falling to engine problems at Daytona, to Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch needing to replace their engines at Phoenix, Toyota has had major problems with the Gen-6.
Two races into the season and Toyota has emerged as the weakest of the three manufactures.
Denny Hamlin had a great third-place finish at Phoenix, but if he didn’t change his engine, his day more than likely would have ended early.
His teammate Kyle Busch has struggled so far, and it's partly due to engine issues.
Other teams, like Michael Waltrip Racing may not have seen the same issues at Phoenix, but even though Mark Martin won the pole, he couldn’t make a push toward to the front by the end of the race.
Toyota's troubles are more than likely far from over, and don't be surprised to see the manufacturer run into more problems as the season continues.
When NASCAR unveiled the Gen-6, one of the big things they believed the car would take away was the clean air advantage a car would get when leading.
The Car of Tomorrow would go faster when out in front, making it harder for other drivers to catch up to the leader and pass them, unless of course a caution was involved.
The Gen-6 was supposed to take that advantage away, partly with the help of new tires.
After the Phoenix race, though, clean air is still giving a big advantage to the driver in the front.
Once Carl Edwards made it to the front of the pack on Sunday, he led 122 Laps and was able to stay out in front thanks to a clean air advantage.
Mark Martin was also able to stay out in front for 75 Laps because of how fast his car went when in the lead and in clean air. When he fell back, he couldn't get as much speed.
The clean air advantage is still very much alive with the Gen-6, and it is something NASCAR must continue to work on to bring drivers closer together and make racing for the lead more about skill.
With the new technology of the Gen-6 comes the possibility that teams can perform on an even playing field.
It's not so much about Ford, Chevy and Toyota being even, but more about the less-funded teams being able to match up with the guys riding for Hendrick.
Other teams like Earnhardt-Ganassi have clearly seen a benefit of the new Gen-6, as Juan Pablo Montoya ran up front for a bit at Phoenix and finished in 12th place when the race was over.
A.J. Allmendinger, who was racing for the under-funded Phoenix Racing, finished in 11th—something that might not have been possible if not for the new Gen-6.
Even at Daytona, drivers like Michael McDowell and J.J. Yeley finished in the top 10.
Does that mean we will see smaller teams win races this season? More than likely not, but the Gen-6 seems to have evened the playing field slightly, giving more NASCAR teams a better chance to compete for wins.