Sprint Cup drivers: Mixed feelings on new Gen-6 car; ‘Wait till Vegas’
By Rick Minter
All across the NASCAR community, many people have been saying, “Wait till Vegas,” before deciding whether the Generation 6 Sprint Cup race cars that debuted this season will improve the on-track product the sport produces.
After the first two races of 2013, this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway takes on added significance, as the first two races produced little of the side-by-side racing for the lead that many hoped the new car would facilitate.
Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, which saw Carl Edwards break a 70-race winless drought, had very little passing at the front, and lead changes determined more by events in the pits than by action on the track. Edwards led the final 78 laps without a serious challenge for the top spot.
“I don’t want to be the pessimist, but [the Gen-6 car] did not race as good as our Generation 5 cars,” said third-finishing Denny Hamlin. “This is more like what the Generation 5 was at the beginning. The teams hadn’t figured out how to get the aero-balance right. Right now, you just run single-file, and you cannot get around the guy in front of you. You would have placed me in 20th place with 30 [laps] to go, I would have stayed there — I wouldn’t have moved up.”
Hamlin said the tire compound is one of the issues.
He said the left-side tires at Phoenix were “very, very hard” and that if a softer tire is chosen, the racing will improve.
“Once we do that, you’ll have some tire wear and overtaking like there’s supposed to be,” he said.
In his post-race comments, fourth-finishing Brad Keselowski, the defending Cup champion, tried to put a positive spin on the race, but did acknowledge that track position was critical and that being in clean air was a clear aerodynamic advantage. Both were issues that the designers of the Gen-6 car hope to address.
“If you could get to the lead, it looked like you had it covered,” Keselowski said, adding that being in the clean air out front is “probably more important than ever.”
Phoenix runner-up Jimmie Johnson agreed that there was little side-by-side racing. “Racing-wise, it was tough to pass all day long,” he said. “Track position and strategy on pit road really seemed to be the big deal.”
But he said the lack of door-to-door action wasn’t a fault of the new car and called for changes to race tracks across the circuit.
“The cars are equal and when they’re equal, you’re going to have a situation like this,” he said. “What we need now is the race tracks to consider the asphalt they’re putting down and even reconfigure the lanes so that we have somewhere to race.”
He said changing the cars isn’t working.
“I think we need to leave the cars alone for a good 10, 20 years,” he said. “Let the teams be.”
It was much the same in the season-opening Daytona 500, as former driver Kyle Petty, now a TV analyst, surmised.
“Daytona was terrible,” he said. “All hype, no substance. For 480 miles, they went in a line. We saw it at Talladega — a single-file race — no racing.”