Big changes are happening in 2013 to stock car racing.
Besides some major team changes within the sport, NAS- CAR is getting ready to unveil a new model of car, the Gen-6.
Testing for the Gen-6 car has been going on all offseason, and the car has the potential to change NASCAR as we know it.
Some of the changes will be more like a throwback to how the sport looked before the Car of Tomorrow debuted in 2007. Other changes will be a little less noticeable but will eventually help make NASCAR even more exciting.
The biggest and most obvious change the Gen-6 car will bring to NASCAR is a sense of individuality among the different NASCAR manufacturers. The Toyota race cars will seem more like the Toyota Camry, the Ford cars like the Ford Fusion and the Chevy cars like the Chevy SS.
Fans will be able to see differences between manufacturers. The differences will no longer just be under the hood.
"I think we now have three makes out here that my little boy at nine years old can tell the difference between," Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, said via NASCAR. com. "And I think that's the goal. That anybody can walk through the parking lot and see a Chevy, Ford and Toyota and know they're different."
The not-so-obvious car changes
The new car will be 160 pounds lighter than the Car of Tomorrow, and driver weight will also be reduced.
A forward roof bar and center roof support bar were added to the roll cage. They make the roof stronger and increase the crush structure. Roof flaps have been increased in size, which will help prevent the cars from becoming airborne.
A taller spoiler was added to help keep downforce numbers close together across the three types of Gen-6 car bodies. The spoiler, plus the camber rules implemented in NASCAR, will help give drivers better rear grip, which, along with a lighter car, will make the Gen-6 easier to handle than the Car of Tomorrow.
The tires used for the Gen-6 will also be different. NASCAR tested a different tire for the car in October and seems to be hopeful that the new tire will help reduce aero dependency.
NASCAR's vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, said via NASCAR. com: "Moving into 2013, we've worked hand-in-hand with Goodyear and their engineers to get a plan together to build tires specifically for this new race car and optimize the grip. We have built this car with the mindset that we are going after more of a mechanical grip and reduce some of the aero dependencies of the car for 2013."
Page 2 of 2 - What it all means for racing fans
Besides giving fans something different to look at, the new car will hopefully bring some much-needed excitement to the 1.5-mile "cookie cutter" tracks.
Reduced aero dependency and a new tire that gives drivers more grip might mean that one driver won't be able to dominate the race at such tracks, which we saw a lot of last season.
Drivers will get more handling out of the car, which will help when passing in traffic.
"The car drives down in the corner, turns off the corner, really good," Earnhardt Jr. said at ESPN.com. "All the stuff we were moving around in the back of the car last year, I don't miss any of that. So this is awesome for me. I like going into the corner with the cars going straight like they're supposed to. I'm enjoying this."
Along with basic changes to handling, speeds have also increased with the Gen-6.
"Everything is a step in the right direction," Denny Hamlin said, via ESPN.com. "The only thing that scares me is the speed that we're running."
The Gen-6 is still in testing and will probably remain a work in progress once the 2013 season starts.
Still, with several key changes, this new model looks set to make a big impact on NASCAR. The Gen-6 has the possibility to even the playing field and make NASCAR less about having the fastest car and more about driving ability.