The early reviews of the 2013 Sprint Cup Series car are upbeat after this week’s test at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
While teams are scrambling to produce their new fleets for the upcoming season, so far the reaction has been very strong from the garage area.
NASCAR has worked closely with all three participating Sprint Cup manufacturers to bring more brand identity to the 2013 car. For some the new Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry and Chevrolet SS models have already accomplished the goal.
“This car is the perfect example of technology helping our sport,” said Dale Earnhardt’s crew chief Steve Letarte. “I think we now have three makes out here that my little boy at nine-years old can tell the difference between.
"I think that is the goal – that anybody can walk through the parking lot and see a Chevy, a Ford and a Toyota and know that they are different. That’s really what it comes down to – if you’re into racing you want to watch cool cars go around the track. I think the simple fact is in 2013 we have cooler cars.”
Letarte’s driver is also a fan at least of the new car’s look. However Earnhardt is withholding final judgment of how the 2013 machines will be in a competitive environment, but for now is much happier with the Gen 6 ride than he was with the previous version of the Cup car.
“The COT was just frustrating for me,” admitted Earnhardt. “I had races where the car drove well and was comfortable, but I never really connected with that car from the very beginning. Personally, I didn’t like the car. I didn’t really appreciate it for what it was.”
Earnhardt believes the identity factor for the car is sky high.
“The cars that you see in the garage, you will stand there and see Fords and Toyotas and Chevrolets driving by,” he said. “It’s great because everything looks different. Everything is recognizable, instantly recognizable. You don’t have to think about the driver and the team itself to associate with a manufacturer. You look at the car and you can see it instantly.
“I can appreciate the cars for that fact. I’m not sure a lot of people realize how important it is having instant recognition for our sport; how much healthier our sport can be with that happening. I like when you see a car and you can recognize it instantly. The car looks great. It looks like a racecar to me. I can get excited about that. I can get behind that.”
Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski has the challenge of both moving to a brand new racecar as well as changing manufacturers. Penske Racing has moved from Dodge to the Ford camp and Keselowksi is trying to make the adjustment in driving a Fusion.
He feels things are off to a good start.
"I think the level of engagement from the Ford camp is very, very high, which is extremely encouraging and that’s from the top on down," Keselowski said. "That makes me feel more confident than anything else because at the end of the day this is a people sport.
NASCAR officials continue to work diligently with the teams and the manufacturers to ensure competitive balance in the series. While it will be on ongoing process through the next two months of the off-season before February’s “Speedweeks” in Daytona, the sanctioning body is pleased with where things stand today.
“They’re (each) different,” NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said about the manufacturer bodies. “The balance on the cars is different. We’ve given enough different things on the car underneath that they can tune on and work on that they can change some of that stuff.”
Teams will return to Charlotte for another test in late January, a week after the annual Preseason Thunder session at Daytona.