- Hunter Thomas, News & Press
NASCAR's Generation-6 car returned to Charlotte Motor Speedway this past Thursday and Friday after the long trip from Daytona International Speedway the week before. Over 30 cars unloaded in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage, but Thursday's test was washed out by rain.
On Friday morning, track crews battled a wet surface after a winter storm blew through Thursday night, leaving behind a lot of ice. The test was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., but the cars didn't hit the track until after noon. Since the test session was so critical to the teams, NASCAR extended the test to 7:30 p.m.
There were many firsts that took place at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday. NASCAR unveiled their brand new laser technology that will be implemented during the weekly tech routine. The new machine was extremely high-tech and very different than traditional methods. All the teams have to do is push the car onto the scales, and a NASCAR official controls the machine by a computer. It's unsure how long the process will be during a regular race weekend, but it seemed fairly lengthy this past weekend.
Another first was seeing the Generation-6 cars underneath the lights. Brad Keselowski, defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion said that the cars handled pretty much the same from day to night, and they were also much faster when the sun went down which is expected due to the colder temperatures.
Ford Racing was fast all afternoon. Greg Biffle lead the majority of the test session, and there were four Fusions in the top-five and six in the top-ten by the end of the night. Aric Almirola (Ford) topped the charts with a lap time of 27.832 with a speed of 194.021 mph. Carl Edwards (Ford) was second, followed by Casey Mears (Ford), Marcos Ambrose (Ford), Jimmie Johnson (Chevrolet), Mark Martin (Toyota), Greg Biffle (Ford), Martin Truex Jr. (Toyota), Clint Bowyer (Toyota) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr (Ford).
Everyone seems to be very pleased with the Generation-6 cars so far. Manufactures are happy that they can now implement specific brand characteristics of their street cars into their racecars. It's a step forward in bringing stock back to stock car racing even though there's no such thing as a 2013 Chevrolet SS. Drivers are excited, because the cars seem to handle better on the mile-and-a-half tracks. With more left side weight and less right side weight, drivers are able to drive more aggressively, and the cars rotate around the turns much better.
“The higher grip they make, the harder you have to drive it,” Jeff Burton said. “And it requires less finesse. It requires more right foot and less brain. And so I wouldn’t say it’s going to be easier in the sense that everybody’s got the same thing. But just getting in the car, fundamentally they should drive a little better.”
Over the past few years, NASCAR has struggled to find a way to have side-by-side racing on the mile-and-a-half tracks. The Generation-6 may help with that issue, but there are many reasons this may be. One is tire wear, while the other is just the product of racing on a large track.
"I think we have to change our mind set too because you track where the sport has gone-we don't have North Wilkesboro anymore, so we lost two short track races," Jeff Burton said. "We used to run Darlington, we now run one. We used to run two races at Rockingham-we don't run any. We replaced them with either flat one-mile racetracks, or with mile-and-a-half tracks. It doesn't take a brain scientist to understand that if you put 43 cars on half-mile track, you're going to have more action than if you put 43 cars on a mile-and-a-half track."
The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series looks to be like one never before. There are still a few questions to be answered, but most of them are centered around the superspeedways. Will drivers be able to draft like before, or will they need to find new techniques? Will the larger roof flaps keep the cars on the ground? Are the spoilers too large for the intermediate tracks? Finally, are the old manufacturing politics back? No matter what the answers are to these questions, I believe NASCAR is heading in the right direction as far as the Generation-6 cars go.
By the way, tickets are now on sale for the Bojangles Southern 500 weekend at Darlington Raceway, May 10-11. Visit www.DarlingtonRaceway.com for more information.