So far, from a fan’s point of view, not much has changed since the advent of the much ballyhooed Gen 6 car arrived on the scene. At least on the racetrack. Yes, the cars look like showroom cars, but other than that, the same things keep happening. The same drivers are good that were good and the same teams lead the pack. Did you expect anything else?
It may be a rush to judgment, however. We’ve only had one short race and a qualifying session to judge the new Fords, Chevrolets, and Toyotas, but some things are clear. Hendrick Motorsports has built the fastest motors, Earnhardt-Childress motors are not far behind, Matt Kenseth is still a great driver, Ford didn’t gain anything with the change, and a lot of teams have a lot of work to do.
On Saturday night during the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race, many drivers couldn’t keep up with Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, and Kevin Harvick. Drivers trying to help couldn’t get to those three drivers’ bumper to push. They were that fast. Many feel like this is a good thing. It has certainly made the “two car tango,” as Darrell Waltrip said, to rest, but to see cars pull away from the field, as much as they can in restrictor plate racing, was interesting. It was also interesting to note that Joey Logano, former driver on the No. 20 Toyota, finished two positions ahead of his former ride in third place in a Penske Ford. It didn’t get as much publicity as Ricky nearly qualifying on the front row with Danica, but then again, what is?
Was the racing better in the Sprint Unlimited? Not that I could see. As usual, the cars were close and we had a big wreck because of driver error, something we’ve come to expect. Qualifying would have been a surprise had Danica Patrick not telegraphed her strength by running the fastest speed in Saturday’s qualifying practice. As usual, nothing seemed so different. Chevrolet dominated the whole two days of action as they will all season. As usual. Did the new car make a difference on the track?
Truth is, we really won’t know much about this car until we hit some normal tracks. No, Daytona and its sister track, Talladega Superspeedway, are not normal. We will know a lot more after Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Bristol because we will have seen the car on a plate track, a flat one-miler, a mile and a half, and a short track. So, sometime on the late afternoon of March 17th, as we are enjoying our green beer, we might know what to think of this new car. Right now, it looks to be status quo, but late on March 17th, who knows?