By admin | March 5, 2013
By Richard Allen
The brand new Gen-6 race car now being used at the Sprint Cup level of NASCAR has two points paying races and multiple preliminary events in its history, and there has not been a lot of passing to speak of during the competition held so far. However, of course, the car is not only in its infancy but the restrictor plate races held in Daytona did not offer an accurate gauge of the car’s performance for the bulk of the series’ schedule.
That said, the racing on the one-mile Phoenix International Speedway this past Sunday played out like so many events contested by the new car’s predecessor that it was difficult to tell the difference. While the car does have a more stock car looking appearance as well as weight and other mechanical improvements over the old Car of Tomorrow, the Gen-6 still seems to be very “aero-dependent” causing advancement in traffic to be difficult.
After Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Phoenix, several drivers sounded off on the new machine.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement for this car,” declared Denny Hamlin. “Obviously we saw a great finish. It’s gonna be tough. It’s gonna take a little while for us to get these cars driving as good as we had with the Generation-5.”
It’s fair to note that Hamlin suffered engine troubles with his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota earlier in the weekend which caused him to start at the rear of the field and battle through traffic most of the day. Eventually, the driver of car No. 11 made a bold move on the final lap and finished 3rd, just inches behind Jimmie Johnson at the finish line.
“I think these cars probably drive better than any race car I’ve ever driven in my life by themselves,” said defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski. “And they’re probably the hardest to drive of any race car in traffic.”
Keselowski ran near the front most of the day and led a total of 16 laps before coming home in 4th.
“I like this car,” Dale Earnhardt, Jr. offered. “I think this car suits me better and we’re just getting started with it. I think we can take this thing and make a pretty incredible race car.”
It’s no secret Junior never adapted well to the CoT. After winning once during his first season with Hendrick Motorsports back in 2008, he went winless until just last season. Earnhardt finished 5th in Phoenix following his runner-up effort in the Daytona 500.
“I think everybody loves these cars,” 7th place finishing Matt Kenseth said in his Phoenix post-race interview. “The goal now is just to get them so we can pass. They’ve got a ton of down force right now but I’m sure NASCAR’s going to adjust as they go and try to make it a little easier for the rear cars.”
Kenseth’s point is that the front car in a group seems to have a distinct advantage as it gathers all the down force it needs to keep its front end planted to the track while at the same time throwing up a “wall of air” that essentially blocks the trailing cars from advancing.
“The cars are definitely aero-sensative,” added A.J. Allmendinger on the Race Hub show on SPEED this past Monday night. “They’ve got a lot of front grip by themselves but once you lose that front down force it’s hard to get your nose under somebody.”
The two biggest complaints fans, drivers and teams had against the CoT was that it offered no brand identity and created in-line or “parade” races that were frequently settled by track position and fuel mileage. Thankfully, the Gen-6 has addressed the brand identity issue nicely. However, as Hamlin pointed out, there is still work to be done on the competition aspect of the car.
Hopefully Kenseth will prove correct when he guesses that NASCAR will continue to tweak on the car to allow for better competition on the track.
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