The Sprint Unlimited Opens NASCAR Cup 2013 with the Gen 6 X-Factor

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******************************************************************************Rusty Norman

I know you’ve heard the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Well, generally that holds true but, the 2013 NASCAR Cup Season looks to be full of changes and many hope they are for the better (including this NASCAR fan.)

The highly touted “Sprint Unlimited” should give us as fans a bit more information as to how the racing might go next week with “The Duels” and the Daytona 500. At the moment, there has only been limited practice with larger packs and, from this fans view, the jury is still out concerning whether or not NASCAR has made the right changes to make the racing better.

We all know the racing has generally been good but not always great, at least in my and others’ opinion. Yes, there have been some great moments in the last couple of years, but, there has also been a some lackluster races and the restrictor plate races have received more criticism since the “two-car-tandem” became the norm than they used to before the COT showed up on the scene.

Now, I’m not saying any of that was, in itself, something that took away from my enjoyment of the restrictor plate tracks but there were some races that would have been better if they were only 100 miles instead of 400 – 500. The best parts of those races were the first several laps and the last 10 – 20 laps. Even the “two-car-tandem’ was fun for a while and gave some of the most dramatic finishes fans have seen in quite a while. Unfortunately, it became too technical and required a lot more communication between “tandem partners” and their spotters, resulting in general chaos at times. (Well, at least that’s this fan’s opinion…) In fact, the middle of those long restrictor plate races almost became humdrum at times. (That’s why I mentioned they would have been better if they were shorter…)

There are a lot of good things about the new car and one is the way it looks. It is no longer hard to tell which brand is which because they all have their own distinct look. It goes without saying that the new car is safer and many of the changes made were to keep the drivers safe. They also appear to have speed and that is one thing many have complained about in one way or another over the last several years.

There is one thing about the new Gen 6 car that is almost scary and that is that the drivers seem to be very happy with it. They like the way it drives and they like the increased speed the cars appear to have. One of the hopes was that it would put more of the racing back in the hands of the driver, along with the hope they could reduce the effect aerodynamics had on the ability to pass. So far, it appears to be the case, but like I mentioned earlier, there hasn’t been that much time spent running in larger packs and they have noticed something this week that we could more about after tonight.

I have heard rumors that the more cars that get together in a pack the faster they go, but that hasn’t proven out yet and probably won’t be known until next week simply because they will have bigger packs in The Duels an in the 500 in particular.

One of the problems the teams are experiencing is having enough parts to build the fleet of cars they need. The earlier practice in January ate up a few reserves due to an accident and yesterdays first practice took out a few more. That has caused the crew chiefs to be cautious about allowing their drivers to spend much time in large packs, (at least until the race tonight…) There seems to be a bit of caution on several fronts leading up to the Unlimited but I really do believe they let them loose after the drivers get more accustomed to these cars running in packs (and they should be doing that tonight.)

I’m anxious to see if they have a big one (or maybe two) tonight since it is a given they will be going all out for tonight’s race. The Gen 6 is definitely an X-Factor for tonight but it should be better understood after tonight and everytime they get on the track next week. There is no doubt they can little afford a lot of wrecked race cars getting ready for the 500 next weekend so I do expect quite a bit of caution to be exercised between now and next Sunday. What I am not sure of is how tonight’s race is going to end. It could be with a whole slew of cars spinning past the flagstand or it could just be another single file finish. If it is the latter, I think all of us are going to have re-evaluate our expectations for next weekend… What do you think???

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© February 16, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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