The new cars in the Nationwide Series are the best thing to happen in the history of NASCAR's junior series. I really liked the Challenger and Mustang, but Chevrolet has to do better than the Impala. Even though Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the Daytona race in a Chevy, the Impala body style does not compare to its rivals from Ford and Dodge. From a style and fan interest perspective, I believe Chevrolet will be forced to race the new Camaro next season. The head of Chevrolet's performance and racing division has been coy about the company's plans, but if they are influenced at all by public opinion, they will have no choice but to put their pony car up against their competitors'.
The new bodies and changed rules made for close racing in yesterday's Daytona race. The new car has a longer wheelbase, but a shorter overall length, which significantly reduces rear downforce. What this meant for the race was cars that appeared to be much looser and more difficult to drive on the rough surface of Daytona.
Ironically, this combination made for better racing for the fans and the drivers. Kevin Harvick said the new car was "harder to drive, but more fun to drive". And when the tires got old late in a green flag run, the better handling of Earnhardt's car allowed him to gobble up the cars in front of him, moving from 8th place to the lead in a handful of laps, without the benefit of drafting help.
Ultimately, NASCAR needs to move the Challenger and Mustang to the Nextel Cup series, and encourage Chevrolet to prepare the Camaro for racing also. One of the biggest complaints of fans about the Car of Tomorrow is its appearance, and the fact that all of the makes look alike. By bringing the new style cars to the Cup series, NASCAR can recapture the brand identification and loyalty that put the fans in the stands in the first place.
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