Opinion: Five Positives for 2013
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on February 11, 2013 | 2:22 P.M. EST
An official lap of racing has yet to be completed, but at least for now the Gen-6 Sprint Cup car is a giant success. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
Gen-6 Sprint Cup Car
NASCAR’s move to create a new Cup machine that brings back the lost brand identity and manufacturer connection of the Car of Tomorrow era has been universally embraced throughout the sport. Drivers, crew chiefs, team owners, manufacturer reps and even the media have all sung the praises of just how good the 2013 Sprint Cup car looks.
In many ways this is NASCAR’s opportunity to bring back many of the sport’s long-time fans that were turned off by the generic feel of the COT. While there were certainly many positives during the much-maligned car’s existence primarily in the area of safety, there aren’t too many folks sad to see it go.
The proof will be in the pudding once the car makes it to the track. The new car smell is strong right now but NASCAR knows how important a competitive product is needed to help strengthen the fan base. An official lap of racing has yet to be completed, but at least for now the Gen-6 Sprint Cup car is a giant success.
Keselowski's Championship Reign
It’s safe to say Brad Keselowski is a new kind of NASCAR champion. A perfect mix of old school racing mentality with the voice of a new generation, Keselowski has represented the sport well since winning the title at Homestead last season. His epic ESPN SportsCenter appearance is still generating buzz and Keselowski has appeared on everything from Late Night with David Letterman to Pardon the Interruption spreading the gospel of NASCAR.
Keselowski and Penske Racing will have their hands full trying to repeat as Sprint Cup champions in 2013. It’s a difficult task for any driver to win back to back titles let alone one who’s team is switching manufacturers. While the Blue Deuce will still be competitive, to expect another Cup crown might be a lofty expectation.
But Keselowski’s growing voice in the sport will still be prominent. His candid observations and ability to communicate in an articulate and entertaining manner has already opened a lot of eyes. Look for more of the same in 2013.
New Digital World
NASCAR fans will have even more ways to follow the sport in 2013 thanks to a myriad of content now available digitally. From a new official website to an increase in social media initiatives, NASCAR will enjoy unprecedented exposure this season.
When the sanctioning body bought back its digital rights from Turner, it signaled just how important the area was to the sport’s future. No longer content to play catch-up to other sports and entertainment entities, NASCAR is determined to be a leader in the category.
Look for even more opportunities for fans to plug into the sport via their laptops, cell phones and mobile devices. The creation of the NASCAR Fan & Media Engagement Center, a kind of multimedia mission control center, will track this important new discipline in an effort to both grow the sport’s fan base as well as support and attract sponsors.
You’ll even see more digital initiatives at MotorRacingNetwork.com this season with additional interactive elements, exclusive content and streaming audio created to bring readers closer to the sport.
Old is New Again
NASCAR will bring back the qualifying policies of the past that will once again put meaning into time trials.
The elimination of the controversial Top 35 rule means drivers will no longer be locked into races based on where teams sit in the point standings. As was the case before NASCAR allowed the first 35 in owner points to have a guaranteed spot, the fastest 36 in each week’s qualifying session will earn their way into the race. Provisionals will fill out the next six spots with one former champion or the seventh driver next in points completing the 43-car field.
Also gone is the policy of setting qualifying order based on practice speeds, an idea that led to teams sandbagging for slower time in order to get a better spot for time trials.
Fans will see an immediate payoff from the new guidelines during “Speedweeks” at Daytona when the Budweiser Duel qualifying races again carry the drama that made the Thursday before the 500 so enjoyable. Many drivers will need to race their way into “The Great American Race” through the twin 150s rather than simply have a ticket stamped because of where they finished in last year’s point standings.
Putting competition ahead of the sport’s business needs will surely be a hit with more fans.
Excitement for Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series
NASCAR’s number two and three divisions are both poised for stellar seasons that already have many fans chomping at the bit. The Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series campaigns promise some of the most intriguing story lines in recent memory.
The field for this year’s Nationwide title race is the deepest in series history. A case can be made for any one of about a dozen drivers to walk away with this year’s crown. From veterans like Elliott Sadler, Brian Vickers and Sam Hornish Jr. to youngsters such as Austin Dillon, Parker Kligerman and Trevor Bayne, the mix of talent in the series is an eclectic combination. Throw in a new car for Chevrolet with the Camaro along with a new road course race at Mid-Ohio and 2013 has the makings for a thrilling Nationwide campaign.
There’s also an intriguing mix of talent in the NCWTS. More young stars like Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon and Jeb Burton will have their hands full fighting off veterans including defending champ James Buescher, Ron Hornaday, Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters. The already sold out Eldora dirt track race as well as the first trip north of the border to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park adds new flavors to the 22-race slate.