Parks Pit Report: Daytona Speedweeks 1/4-Sprint Unlimited

The race may no longer have his sponsor’s name, but Kevin Harvick put his Budweiser Chevrolet SS in victory lane in the Sprint Unlimited, the first race for the new Generation-6 race car.

From the moment the checkered flag waved last November, I have waited for this moment.  The new Sprint Cup season has arrived, and with it comes an entirely redesigned race car that from the moment of introduction has been met with waves of approval, both from fans and drivers.

Finally, with a fresh coat of paint and new designs on all the cars, they hit the track for the first time in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona.

Quite honestly…I like where this car has been, and where it’s going.

Keep in mind, since 2007, NASCAR introduced the safer, redesigned “Car of Tomorrow” which had been in development for some time to better protect the driver.  It was taller, wider, and boxier than the previous design.  Frankly, it didn’t look like a stock car.  The first design had a wing on the back, a wing.  In NASCAR, the last time a wing was on a car was in 1970 when Plymouth had the “Super Bird” and because it was so good aerodynamically, it dominated.  The next year, it was outlawed.

Wings in NASCAR in today’s world simply didn’t work, and fans wanted the look to go back to the way it was before, with a spoiler.  So, after five races in 2010, the spoiler came back.  One year later, the splitter went from having exposed braces on the front to a clean look, having a more distinct nose of a car.

Still, the cars in essence were all similar.  Only real differences were decals and some side windows.  It reminded me a lot of the old IROC Series, where drivers literally were in similar cars, and had to DRIVE to find out who was best.

But, when the new Generation-6 car was introduced last year for 2013 competition, the landscape changed.  The new Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, and the completely new Chevrolet SS literally are a mirror image of their production counterpart.  Even before Dodge opted to pull out of competition at the end of 2012, they introduced their Charger R/T for competition, and it was an exact replica of what one could buy at the dealership and drive home.

The one thing that can be said about these new cars, judging from Daytona testing and the race itself, these cars are hard to handle, but can drive very well.  The shorter spoiler, both in height and length, has made the back of the cars really hard to handle, especially if one is pushing to make a move.

At the same time, the whole “two-car tandem” draft seen the last few years really has not been seen thus far, mainly because the cars don’t match up.  The nose of these new machines sit lower than the rear bumper, making it hard to hook up and go forward, and even if they do the speed surprisingly drops off.

In the end, these cars really set forth something that NASCAR has lacked for the last six years since the COT was introduced, and that’s brand identity.  Now, one can clearly distinguish a Ford from a Chevy from a Toyota, and that is key.

The “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” attitude has returned to NASCAR, and that is something every fan can get excited about.

Part 2 of my special Speedweeks edition of the Pit Report will focus on qualifying for the Daytona 500, and look ahead to the Budweiser Duels to completely set the field.

RESULTS:  1-Harvick  2-Biffle  3-Logano  4-Stewart  5-Kenseth  6-Almirola  7-Kahne  8-Earnhardt Jr.  9-Truex Jr.  10-Montoya

NOTABLE FINISHES:  12-Edwards  14-Johnson  16-Kyle Busch  17-Gordon

CAUTIONS:  3 for 6 laps.

LEAD CHANGES:  9 among 5 drivers.

TIME OF RACE:  1 Hr, 3 Mins, 22 Secs.

AVERAGE SPEED:  177.538 MPH

MARGIN OF VICTORY:  0.149 Seconds

 

 

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