Two races into the Sprint Cup season and the jury remains out on whether the new Gen 6 car is going to improve the racing in NASCAR’s top division.
The Daytona 500 was a single-file parade for most of the race with only a late caution flag setting up side-by-side racing for the victory. What was obvious at Daytona was that the lead car was going to be next to impossible to pass because of the aerodynamics of the new car.
The race at Phoenix also showed that the lead car was going to be difficult to pass, and the Gen 6 car was criticized by several drivers — including third-place finisher Denny Hamlin and defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski.
Hamlin commented after the Phoenix race that he “just didn’t pass that many cars” and Keselowski said “it’s harder than ever to pass.”
I will say that the new Gen 6 car is better looking than the so-called “Car of Tomorrow” that didn’t survive all that long.
This weekend’s race at Las Vegas could be a crucial test for the new car. Las Vegas is a 1.5-mile oval, which is the length of many of the tracks the series will compete on later in the year.
If passing proves difficult at Las Vegas or if the lead car has a clear advantage by being in clean air, NASCAR will be forced to make adjustments to the Gen 6 car to make it more competitive.
Fans have been howling for several years that the level of competition in NASCAR has fallen off. At Phoenix there was one green-flag pass for the lead.
I want to be optimistic about how the Gen 6 car will perform at Las Vegas. NASCAR officials have to be honest with their fans. The Gen 6 car is not the “silver bullet” that will cure all the ills of non-competitive racing, but it could be a start in the right direction if the engineers resolve the aerodynamic problems.
The other disappointment at Phoenix was the problem with the right front Goodyear tires. Several drivers’ right front tires blew before completing 70 laps. You would think, with the series visiting twice a year, that the Goodyear tire gurus could provide a competitive tire.
In other racing news
I did watch the Rolex Grand Am racing at the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin on Saturday. There was good racing with plenty of action.
Checking the schedule for the track, which opened last year, there is a MotoGP race, the first visit of the Australian Super Cars and the Formula One race in September.
What needs to happen and happen soon is for the promoters of the Circuit of the Americas and the IZOD IndyCar Series officials to sit down and schedule a race at the track. It would be a great addition to the IndyCar schedule, a true road course instead of a makeshift street course.
I know IndyCar has an event scheduled at Texas Speedway, but there is no reason a second date at the Circuit of Americas couldn’t be added. It might help attract fans to both tracks.
Ken de la Bastide’s weekly auto racing column appears on Wednesdays.