Gen-6 Car Still Work in Progress
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on March 7, 2013 | 1:03 P.M. EST
To help expedite the learning process, NASCAR is allowing teams a full day of testing today at Las Vegas. (Photo: Getty Images)
Teams continue working to understand the nuances of the new Gen-6 Sprint Cup Series racecar.
With only two races under its belt, at Daytona and Phoenix, the next-generation Cup machine is still a mystery to many teams. Even Carl Edwards. the most recent winner after his Phoenix victory last Sunday, isn’t quite sure about what to expect with the new car.
"It’s a hard one to answer right now," Edwards said. "After the Vegas race, you're going to have all of the opinions you want on that subject because that’s gonna be the first race where we see huge speeds, huge reliance on downforce. I think we’ll know where we stand after that."
To help expedite the learning process, NASCAR is allowing teams a full day of testing Thursday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Since the Sprint Cup Series schedule includes so many 1.5-mile ovals, Edwards thinks the extra Vegas session will be very beneficial.
"I know this is probably wrong to admit, but I didn’t really have Phoenix marked on the calendar as the one (where) we were going to win the first race," Edwards said earlier this week on a national media teleconference. "I was looking at Vegas as the race that would be the really good one, so I’m excited about this weekend. After seeing my pit crew perform at Phoenix, I’m going to Vegas to win.
"We tested very well at Charlotte. We’ll know tomorrow where we stack up and if it’s anything like Charlotte, I think we’ll be tough in Vegas. I have high expectations and hope we can meet them."
There've been mixed reactions from a number of drivers during the early portion of the Gen-6 era. Some have praised the car while others ... well, not so much. Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski likes what he sees so far but believes there are still similarities to the previous COT machine.
"These cars probably drive easier than any racecar I’ve ever driven in my life by themselves, and are probably the hardest to drive in traffic," Keselowski said after Sunday’s race in Phoenix. "If we can get that a little bit better and probably make them a little more difficult to drive by yourself, but a little easier to drive in traffic, we could have even better races than what we have today."
Denny Hamlin has an opposing view and has been fined by NASCAR for his comments. Even after coming from last in the field after an engine change to finish third at Phoenix, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver thinks there’s a lot more work to be done with the new car.
"I hate to be 'Denny Downer,' but I just didn't pass that many cars (at Phoenix)," Hamlin said. "That's the fact of it. We started 40-something, finished third so you think we just motored through the pack. That's just not the case.
"I'm ecstatic about our finish, don't get me wrong, because we didn't have a third-place car. But my pit crew just kept putting me in a position to race those guys and then I capitalized when one or two guys in front of me made some mistakes here and there. I'd get one more spot, two more spots, next thing you know I've got a shot to possibly get a win at the end. That's what you've got to do when you don't have the best car."
Most everyone agrees on one thing: that the evolution of the Gen-6 car will continue as the season rolls on.
"Everybody loves these cars," Matt Kenseth said. "The goal is always to get them easier to pass and they've got a ton of downforce right now. I'm sure NASCAR is going to adjust as they go and try to make it a little easier for the rear cars to catch somebody."