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NASCAR’s Gen6: A Work in Progress or All Flash and No Substance?

By admin | November 23, 2013

 By Richard Allen

The 2013 Sprint Cup season began with NASCAR introducing a “new” car to the sport. The much reviled Car of Tomorrow was to be replaced by the fresher sixth generation racer, or the Gen6. According to those who run the sport, this car was to offer a look that would show real distinctions between the manufacturers and it was to create a better on-track product.

The Car of Tomorrow used only stickers to show distinction between the brands.

The CoT had been criticized from its earliest days in the Sprint Cup division for having no brand distinctions and for the poor quality of racing it created. The only way to distinguish one make from another was to look at the stickers applied to the car after its NASCAR-mandated body pieces were put in place. Also, the term “aero-tight” became more commonly used than to describe the racing than just about any other phrase.

The Gen6 was created for the purpose of fixing those issues. And so, the sanctioning rolled their new machine out for the 2013 season with a publicity barrage and much fanfare. And without question, the car did look better than its ‘one size fits all’ predecessor.

What grade would you give the Gen6 in its first season?—————————->

The Gen6 car offered brand distinction that its predecessor did not.

NASCAR was so proud of their new creation that secret edicts were sent out that it was not to be criticized, even slightly, as driver Denny Hamlin found out just two weeks into the 2013 season.

 But the fact of the matter was that the Gen6 did not improve racing at all. Instead, criticism of the new car continued to mount as the season wore on. Passing became almost nonexistent during long green flag stretches of each race, especially on tracks most noted for the “aero-tight” conditions so often complained about by drivers and teams. The only time many races on the aero-sensitive 1.5- 2 mile ‘cookie cutter’ tracks saw any real action was in the first couple of laps after a restart or during pit stop exchanges.

The Gen6 often times proved to be a parade device rather than a race car.

In reality, the newer car was little more than the old CoT with a new body applied to the same inner skeleton. And it is that skeleton, or chassis, that makes for poor racing. With so many of the inner parts and pieces of the car mandated by or handed down from NASCAR, the teams are all essentially using the same equipment.

With so little room for variation or experimentation, the cars all run essentially the same speed when they get on the track. To a novice, that might sound ideal. After all, won’t the racing be closer if the cars are running the same speed?

In reality, however, that is not the case. At high speeds, which create greater aerodynamic sensitivity, the cars simply line up and follow one another while running at the same pace. No one is able to pass because of the “wall of air” generated between the cars at top speed. Thus, a high speed parade results.

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Further, with so much of the car under such tight restrictions, the opportunity exists for the bigger and more heavily financed teams to gain an advantage. Organizations such as Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing are able to pay teams of engineers to glean those minute differences that provide advantages lesser financed teams would never be able to find.

Late in the 2013 season, even NASCAR chairman Brian France acknowledged that the racing needed to see some improvement, particularly on the so called ‘cookie cutter’ tracks.

“I think you’re going to see already good racing get elevated a notch or two if some of the things that we think are doable can happen,” France said in an interview posted on MRN.com by writer Dustin Long. ”We have a dedicated group working only on what is the best package we can come with, in particular, on the mile-and-a-halves that give the most drivers an opportunity to pass (and) to win.

“Candidly we’re evolving our approach to things. I use the words more science than art, more fact-based things as we go into testing. We’re marrying that with our institutional knowledge, what makes the cars easier to drive, easier to pass. That’s what NASCAR is all about.”

Brian France says development of the Gen6 is an ongoing process.

In the final evaluation of the Gen6’s first season, it failed to produce any real change aside from a fresh appearance. As a teacher by trade, I live in a world in which grades are assigned for accomplishment or lack thereof.

For 2013, I would give the Gen6 a grade of ‘D’, which is an improvement over the CoT’s lifelong grade of ‘F’. But the Gen6’s mark is based solely on its appearance. The racing hardly saw any improvement on the tracks in which aerodynamics matter most.

So, will France’s claim that the development of the car is an evolving process prove true, or will the Gen6 simply prove to be a all about the packaging with no real substance under the skin?

 

NASCAR needs more racing and less parading.

 

Topics: Articles |

25 Responses to “NASCAR’s Gen6: A Work in Progress or All Flash and No Substance?”

  1. Russ Says:
    November 23rd, 2013 at 11:27 am

    IMHO its incorrect to blame the car for the problems. They are properly the very ones you mentioned in the article. The root of which is Nascar and its acolytes obsession with “parity”. Restrictive templates etc, yet at the same time allowing “tolerances”. “Downforce” cars and “speedway” cars, all of which meet the same templates. The two are mutally exclusive, increase cost at the expense of competitive racing and are a contributor to what we have today.

    Given the level of sophistication and technology at the major teams dont look for any changes. No matter the changes the top manufacturer teams will quickly come to the correct engineering answer and the status quo will be quickly established.

    So dont blame the Gen -6, take a look at the state of the sport itself.

  2. Terry T Says:
    November 23rd, 2013 at 11:32 am

    You can’t expect people who don’t understand racing to be able to design a good race car.

  3. Offkilter Says:
    November 23rd, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    The racing could have been better this year, but it could have been worse. Tossing out rules and opening up the tolerences would probably only help 6 time to make the racing worse. Instead of the 48 spanking 25 or so cars on the lead lap, he’d only have to worry about 10 or so. Maybe cid needs to be cut by 100 to reduce speeds and negate aero sensitivity? Mandate softer tires for bolder corner moves? Of course bold changes like that bring about newer and expensive consequences.

  4. Richard Allen Says:
    November 23rd, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    You might be right that opening up tolerances could have a negative effect. But I offer this piece of evidence- when tolerances were more open, there were underdog stories like Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki. Since tolerances have been tightened, there has been total domination by power teams.

  5. Russ Says:
    November 24th, 2013 at 6:32 am

    Richard. I wholeheartedly agree that the current system hands a HUGE advantage to the three teams that are their respective manufacturers standard bearer.

    My thought is that it either needs to be one way or the other. Either go down the road of “parity” with restrictive rules with zero tolerance.

    Or, give up the parity nonsense, and open up the rules and let the best team(s) win.

    Either way would be better than what they have today.

  6. Offkilter Says:
    November 24th, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Richard, what you say makes sense, but 20-30 years ago they were single car teams mostly with limited manpower working under the direction of the crew chief and shop forman with notebooks. Today, i just can’t believe that a Tommy Baldwin or BK racing team can come up with more speed than the army of engineers at the mega teams. Even if nascar reverted all the way back to the ” run what ya brung” i don’t think i’d want to relive the days of a Bill Elliott winning by almost a lap because they found something in the cowl/windshield area. It’s really a moot point, because the last time that a team (evernham led 24) brought a radical but within the current rules car(T-Rex in the all-star charlotte race in late 90’s) to the track, they were told by nascar to never bring it back. I agreed with that move because the 24 was allready dominant. If they were allowed to massage off of that new platform, they may have won 75% of everything from then on.

  7. RacingFan Says:
    November 24th, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Taking Russ’ thought about “zero tolerance” a step further, if NASCAR simply built 43 “identical” cars (impossible to do) and randomly assigned drivers to them and let them race, it would be interesting to see the results.

    However, would that show us the best drivers? Not necessarily. Years ago, drivers had different styles of racing. Some, like the King, liked to run up by the wall. Some, like charging Charlie Glotzbach, used a win or blow up strategy. Each driver might benefit from a different design of chassis and setup. If they were forced to drive a generic car, they would not be able to show their true ability.

    With the engineered cars of today, I had thought that those differences may have disappeared, but an event earlier this year made me think otherwise. When Mark Martin substituted for Denny Hamlin, he was not able to drive the car as fast as Denny, because Denny used a smoother style, while Mark mashed the accelerator and brake pedals (that Denny’s car wasn’t designed for). Even there, the design of the car made a difference.

    Also, part of a driver’s success is his ability to work with his crew and crew chief over the long haul to get the car to his liking. That would be missing with the generic cars.

  8. Russ Says:
    November 24th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    For clarity, my comments regarding “zero tolerance” are directed at the templates and the enforcement. Ever wonder how you can generate more or less downforce, change aero balance, etc. and comply with the templates? Its all in the “tolerances” and a lot of time and money goes into that.

  9. Moe Foe Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 3:46 am

    One thing I wish they’d engineer out of these cars is the ‘clean air’ bugaboo. The lead car should have much more resistance than a car following, allowing the cars to draft again. I’m not an engineer, but it seems if they added the wickerbill, as they have discussed before, it would leave a bigger hole that a following car could draft on. We could then see some of the racing that grew NASCAR in the 60s and 70s.

    They also need to get the cars to stick to the ground, forward AND backwards. I suggest that the spoiler be made as a triangle, so there is downforce either way. And by angling the TV panel out at the bottom, it would also provide some downforce backwards. That would add the benefit of lifting the front any car that tried to push, preventing tandem racing. It’d be worth trying and, if they were successful at getting these cars to stay down, maybe the restricter plates could go away and the cars would get their throttle response back.

  10. Waiting to Inhale Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I know i’m going to generate a lot of negative comments after my post, but I will anyway. First off, NASCAR needs to stop having teams build “aero” cars anyway; and NASCAR knows this! NASCAR fans are so tired of hearing the word “Aero push” so much that we are ready to puke!I have often said to hack about 3 inches off the back spoiler, raise the front splitter up by about the same, and PLEASE get rid of the equally ignorant “bump stops!” Coil binding? Really? Name one other racing series that allows that! Reduce the stroke and bore of the motors, slow the cars down. There isn’t a fan in the world that can tell the difference in a car going 200 or 170 on the track. Does more speed equal better racing? NO! NHRA shortened the race distance to try to control black out speeds, and guess what…the stands are still packed! I know the moment when Ford rolled out their Fusion months ahead of everyone else, they were going to be worse for wear. The cars have equal downforce…CRAP! They don’t! The nose on the Fusion is a brick compared to Toyota and Chevy and it shows on the track. I do have on other complaint too, I find it absolutely amazing that Chevy put a car on the track that has not even hit the showrooms yet, and now will only be a limited production car instead of a mass market car like it was touted as…ummm…can you say Dodge Daytona/Plymouth Superbird? How can a manufacture win a manufacturers title with a non existance product on the street. Yes, I know that NASCAR cars have no real affliation with cars on the street, however, the nose of the cars are the biggest part of a NASCAR and the ability to cut through the wind! This nose was based off of an empty promise by GM. I don’t know why I even bother watching NASCAR anymore, but then again, I stopped fully watching racing years ago and will just watch the highlights most of the time anymore unless its a short track or a road course where aero plays very little into the actual race!

  11. Kenneth Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 10:01 am

    If you want good side by side racing and no more aero push, get rid of bump stops and coil binding. If you have any input with NASCAR, pass this on.

  12. The Mad Man Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 10:14 am

    As long as the France family coffers are filled, they could care less about the quality of the 3 hour parades that are broadcast or the resemblance of what’s on the track to what’s driven on the street.

    When the vile COT was rolled out, it was hailed by the Ivory Towers of Daytona and their controlled media as solving all of the problems that the previous car had and would save the teams money. It created more problems and cost 5 times as much.

    Then the Gen 6 was rolled out with all the usual promises and BS from the controlled media. It doesn’t resemble the street counterpart, the kit for the chassis runs about $325, 000 (up from $250, 000 COT kit), and still has the aero problems it was supposed to solve according to BZF’s roll-out speech.

    Then we have the WWE-like atmosphere with the hype, talking smack, and phony debris cautions. It’s no longer racing, it’s racer-tainment.

    Unless or until you get folks with actual racing experience running things, the boredom and empty seats will continue.

  13. midasmicah Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I’ll keep it plain and simple, Rich. The car sucks. It’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

  14. racefangurl Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I thought Roush was behind in set ups and had conservative engines. Penske cars run better than Roush cars and they’re both Fusion teams in the Cup. Should NASCAR rework the chassis of the cars in this off season, btw?

  15. jerseygirl Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 11:13 am

    I’d have been happy if the Gen6 car had produced a little “flash” on the race track. Instead as you pointed out, it was simply a dud.

    The IROC series died out and it used “spec” cars on the track.

    I have zero faith (to go along with NASCAR’s zero tolerance using skeletor as a template) that NASCAR will be able to improve the racing. I don’t know who they are hiring for engineers, but if they are as dumb as say Robin Pemberton or Brian France are when they speak, well, it is no wonder that this has all gone so wrong. They match up so well with the Goodyear tire people, who always blame the teams for tire failures.

  16. Tim Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    The only way things get better is if they get some air through and under the car. Sealing these cars (or any car) to the track simply means “aero push” as clean air is needed over the nose to get max grip out of the tires. Start by putting a larger grill on the front that doesn’t direct all airflow directly to the radiator, then put a max pressure cap on the radiator to limit the stupid high pressures run in the rads that means the front grill is so taped up that almost no air is needed to keep that water in the cooling system from cavitating. Then lower the rear spoiler a tidge and you’d pretty much have it.

    DON’T disallow bumpstops - they are by far the most economical way of evening out these old-school design front A-Arm suspensions. A no-bump setup or coil binding means LOTS of testing and the groups with the best 7-post shaker rigs, the best software written using the best data-aquisition and the best engineers will win. They already have a huge advantage - taking away bumps just makes it way worse.

    And hey- it wouldn’t hurt to make a tire that actually gives up speed over the fuel run as well.

  17. Russ Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    F1 cars, which can theoretically run on the ceiling, run very high noses, and do everything they can to get air UNDER the nose. Of course then they do something with it.

  18. Steve Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I gave this a D originally due to there being the new nose to match the manufacturer. I downgraded to an F due to the incessant hype it was given, only to have it flop on the track. As much as I want to blame these cookie cutter tracks, its the cars and the tires that are the cause of the poor racing.

    On a side note, Brian France should never use the word “marry” or “marriage” in any sentence.

  19. Tony Geinzer Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I’d still fire Brian France and I’d rather see Dodge back because I can’t physically stand to let JJ and Chad “You Can Hate Him” Knaus, but it Won’t Stop” Knaus and another Hendrick Employee rack up wins,wins,wins,and wins no matter what!

  20. bob Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    I’m not an aero engineer, but I agree with getting the cars up off the ground. No air underneath the first car, means no air on the nose of the car behind it. And as much as I hated that stupid wing, it punched a smaller hole in the air.

    Getting them up off the ground will take away downforce, and slow them down a bit, which is fine. Take away some spoiler, raise the nose, it should be better.

    I’m also not a fan of the bumpstop/coil bind thing. In 2000ish or so when they started running on the bumpstops, the cars that were running them, didn’t really fall off in speed. The cars that actually still used their suspensions (Rusty Wallace), fell off in speed. If they actually have to use their suspension, you can set it up hard or soft, good on the long run or good on the short run, that means more passing as cars are doing different speeds and running different lines during different parts of a run.

    I don’t know why I just typed all that, its not because I care anymore, and I really don’t.. I think its because I miss what it used to be, back when you could actually get a group of guys together for the Daytona 500 and spend the day drinking beers, BBQ’n and yelling at the TV, now nobody cares, there is nothing to yell at.

  21. Buffalo Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Do away with the Spliter and skirting. Make minimum height 4″ all around and require bumpers front and back. Give maximum dollar amount on a sliding scale. say $1,000,000 for 1 car. $850,000 for the next, $750,00 for the next and #650,000 for the 4th car.

  22. scott Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Say what you want, it is not racing it is follow the leader. This has to be the most boring season of the 40 that I have seen. I agree with a previous comment that I am surprised the Government Motors was allowed to run a car that still is not available in the marketplace. Somehow, there seems to be something wrong when Government Motors can enter cars in so many racing series on my dime.

  23. RacingFan Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    The point of getting rid of the bump stops/coil bind is to add more unpredictability to the setup that the driver must deal with. Engineers hate unpredictability. A moving part is much more difficult to control and predict under all circumstances than a locked down part.

    Most of the great handling street cars usually have stiff suspensions. The cars that ride softly often don’t handle as well. With modern (almost exotic) technology, manufacturers have methods that help overcome that, but NASCAR doesn’t allow that on their racers, anyway. Taking away the stiffness of the bump stop/coil bind suspensions will make racing more challenging to the driver and entertaining for the fan.

    7-post shakers cannot create a setup that will be ideal when the driver encounters lapped traffic and must go to a different part of the track, especially with some rough spots that will cause the car to bounce. The same can be said for track temperature, sun/cloud coverage, rubber buildup, uneven wear on the tires, etc. A bouncing car will be harder to engineer. The driver will make more of a difference. Drivers could have more of an impact in the past with the cars bouncing on springs.

    Regarding expense, currently none of the back markers has a realistic chance of winning, except for Talledega/Daytona, a gas mileage race, or a rain-out with a driver staying out under caution.

    Passing problems can’t get much worse than they are now. It is worth trying working suspensions again.

  24. Zackary Shawn Says:
    November 25th, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    “But the fact of the matter was that the Gen6 did not improve racing at all.”

    Yes it did.

  25. Leto Says:
    November 26th, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Aside from the plate tracks, the racing in 2013 was better. Whether that is due to the car or not is debatable, of course.

    The thing that gets me is that everyone seems to forget that the COT and the Gen 6 share the same chassis. The only difference is that no longer are all of the cars on the track exact replicas of each other; there are now manufacturer differences. These cars now “look” more like their street counterparts, but these are still the COT with a few different pieces of sheetmetal.