In an effort to avoid calling the new cars for the Sprint Cup Series “cars of tomorrow,” NASCAR decided to call them “G6s – the sixth generation remake of the flagship cars for the sport.
The new cars are designed to bring back manufacturer identity. For the first time in years, a Chevrolet looks like a Chevrolet (although it’s an Australian-production car), a Ford looks like a Ford and a Toyota looks like a Toyota.
Whatever the name or looks, however, race fans expect more out of the new cars. They want compelling races.
NASCAR faces challenges with every new season. The 2013 campaign, which begins with a three-day test at the Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 10, is no different.
But if stock car racing wants to recapture the momentum it enjoyed as early as five years ago, it probably will have to have solutions for the following challenges:
• The G6 cars must get off to a fast start. The last thing NASCAR needs is complaints and problems with the new-look cars. And most of all, it can’t afford any more follow-the-leader racing that became all-too-familiar with the older cars of tomorrow.
• Stand back and let Brad Keselowski become the face of the sport. He’s refreshingly honest and lacks a lot of the Madison Avenue polish that has turned a lot of traditional fans away. Keselowski is sure to be controversial, but the ride will be fun to watch.
• Continue to work with tracks about hotel costs. Race tickets aren’t the problem anymore. And since tracks allow fans to bring their own refreshments, concessions aren’t a problem, either. The problem is $300 a night hotel rooms with minimum stays. Added with the cost of gasoline, it’s prohibitively expensive to travel to races.
• Hope Dale Earnhardt Jr. becomes more relevant. He won a race last year and qualified for the Chase for the Championship. NASCAR needs more from him. They need him to be a consistent threat every weekend, and a legitimate contender for the championship.
• Create a positive Daytona 500 memory. In 2010 there were long delays for a pothole in the second turn. By the time it was fixed, half the television audience was gone and the sport became the butt of jokes. Last year, rain pushed the race back to Monday and Juan Pablo Montoya added to the unusual delays by running into a truck pulling a jet dryer. Two hundred gallons of kerosene burned another hole in the pavement. For the second time in three years, the most-lasting memory of the biggest race was a bizarre blunder.
• The media needs to spend more time highlighting the personalities of more drivers. It’s become too easy to focus on Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick while they run mid-pack than to focus on the drivers in the top 10. If Patrick could become relevant as more a driver than as a woman, that would be a tremendous boost, too.
• Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch need to be up front and in contention. These all are drivers with winning pedigrees who struggled last year. The sport also desperately needs their diverse personalities, and the best way to promote that is from Victory Lane.
• Treat the Camping World Truck Series race at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway as the biggest truck race in history. It certainly will get more attention than any other race of the year, especially since it will be on a Wednesday night at a half-mile dirt track.