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These 2013s are going to be great race cars, eventually. But why behind schedule?

These 2013s are going to be great race cars, eventually. But why behind schedule?

NASCAR's Robin Pemberton: a lot of hard work put into these 2013s (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Let's be right upfront here: NASCAR's 2013 stock car project is one of the best things the sanctioning body has done for this sport in years.
   The new stocker has the potential to put real good racing back on the tracks...not necessarily because of the various engineering and design points, all very carefully thought out and orchestrated, but more so because of the unusual teamwork, and yes even camaraderie, among the manufacturers.
   It is that theme of teamwork which is so striking. And NASCAR's Robin Pemberton gets high-fives for making it work.
   If NASCAR officials can amp that up just a little more, to get the car through its birthing process, these 2013s should really sing.
   Everything seems going right with this program, except for one key thing -- time.
   This 2013 thing seems to have progressed at a painfully slow pace, with too much foot-dragging somewhere.


  When Carl Edwards crashes five Daytona 500 cars, there might be a problem (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    So, while NASCAR executives try to figure a graceful way out of the needless/mindless Denny Hamlin controversy and gently apologize to irate stock car fans for the mess, let's take a closer look at the 2013s at the heart of all this, and the 2013 project itself.
    Re NASCAR versus Hamlin: You think drivers have been too plain vanilla? Now you can even hear them cowering. Where's a real Dale Earnhardt to straighten this stuff out? Remember what Big E had to say about NASCAR's five-and-five rules back when?
    (It sometimes seems lost that NASCAR's prime directive, as originally defined by Big Bill France himself, is to be the caretaker of this sport, not just some money-making machine.)

    For a program that had its first grand 'gather-round-the-table, boys' meeting in May 2010, this 2013 project should be much further along than it is at the moment.
    Be honest: what did you really think about this year's Daytona 500?
    It was painfully obvious that this 500 was not a barnburner.
   And it should be painfully obvious to someone that Carl Edwards does not crash five Daytona cars without there being a serious problem somewhere. Remember Edwards drives for Ford's Jack Roush, whose teams had dominated Daytona and Talladega the past two years. Roush men know how to build Daytona-Talladega cars.
    There have been way too many gas-mileage snoozer races the past two seasons, 12 or so last year alone. So it is downright frightening that one top sports figure here is warning that unless something changes, fans this season could see as many as half the 36 tour events as gas-mileage snoozers.
   That is simply unacceptable.   
   Patience? Let the car develop? Let teams work out the kinks before we get too critical?
   Sounds like 'come back next year, and we'll have it all sorted out for you.'
   That is simply unacceptable.

  Time for NASCAR to apologize to fans and to Denny Hamlin for this unnecessary sideshow controversy? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  What's the real deal here?
   (And don't expect anyone to go on the record, not with NASCAR eager to slap down $25,000 fines.)
   Let's try to piece together what all we know.

  The 2013 rules tweaks were finally made official only in early January, after way too much dawdling.
  For a sport that prides itself on quick turnaround times, and 'we gotta be ready for next Sunday's race,' this 2013 project wasted a lot of time.
   Ford rolled out its 2013 January 2012, Dodge rolled out its 2013 three weeks later. Toyota dragged its feet until May, for some reason. And Chevrolet, inexplicably, didn't even unveil its street version until three weeks ago.
   Somebody in Daytona should have been cracking the whip harder, it would seem.
   The 2013 race cars should have been on-track testing last June or July. And there should have been good, hard testing at all these different tracks the rest of that season.
   The goal was clear -- to put on a sizzling Daytona 500 to kickoff 2013.

   Kyle Busch: NASCAR has done a good job lately of trying to strip this sport of personalities. Guess plain vanilla is the official flavor of stock car racing. Or maybe NASCAR execs are just shooting themselves in the foot... (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   And then there's the 2013-car marketing campaign. Whoever was in charge of that project, well, it may be well past time to put that thing out for new bids.
   Instead of using the full 2012 season for teaser ads about the 2013s, the storyline of the 2013s was instead about repeated delays (though most of the media didn't even bother to go past the press releases and dig into the situation).
   Each race week from Daytona-July through Homestead-November should have had all four 2013s on the track for at least an hour or so of testing/practice/marketing/promotion.  Drivers signing postcards. All that jazz. NASCAR's marketers know just how to do that; why did they lose that great opportunity?
   Perhaps NASCAR executives have been too afraid of presenting this new car as a work-in-progress, too worried that some drivers and crewmen might say 'we think we need more downforce in the rear,' or 'the nose doesn't work right.'
   So they kept it all under wraps....apparently with the goal of triumphantly unveiling the new car at SpeedWeeks to thunderous ovation.
   How did that work out for you?

   Jimmie Johnson took the high line and nobody could run the low line, and that was the big story at Daytona. Well, unless you were Carl Edwards.... (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR) 

   Well, some in the media were pointing much of this out early last year, prodding NASCAR to get more open with things, to get cracking on putting real race cars out on real tracks.
   The first 2013s were finally put out on a track, perhaps as much for some publicity photos as anything, at Martinsville in mid-August. Now Martinsville is a great track, a classic short track, but it's not a high-speed 1-1/2-mile monster to really test these new cars. In fact Thursday's test session here was perhaps the first solid test session on a track like this for the 2013s.
   Yes, there was a December test at Charlotte -- inconclusive, because of still evolving rules, parts shortages, and cold weather. And a mid-January test at Charlotte was equally inconclusive, pretty much for all the same reasons. (In fact some teams had to take parts off their Daytona 500 cars and put them on their Charlotte cars, because of parts issues.)
   The Texas and Kansas tests in early October were both duds, prompting significant rethinking. (How did TV cover those tests anyway?)

   Can you say 'behind schedule'?
   Throw in Friday's rainout here, and a full slate of Saturday stuff on the track, and perhaps a few questions about tires -- why really did six right-fronts blow out last week at Phoenix?
    You get the picture.
    Now Las Vegas is a great town, and the track is neat, and the Neon Garage is a cool marketing move. But how great will the racing really be Sunday?
    In a word, this place is 'fast.' Very fast.
   These new cars are fast too.
   How brave might drivers be? Well, many might well be skittish about trying any bold and courageous moves, at least until they learn a little more about these new cars.
    When drivers are skittish, well, you saw the Daytona 500, after Edwards' five crashes.

  Ever wonder why NASCAR's marketers don't put as much effort into promoting, say, Johanna Long, as they do Danica Patrick? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Goodyear here will err, rightly, on the side of caution, with conservative tires. The same tires raced here a year ago.
    Race speeds, though, should be up.
    The Texas 500, which comes up in early April, will likely be the same as what we see here Sunday. And probably the Kansas 400 too later that month.
    The California 500 in two weeks? The racing at that track, unfortunately, has never quite lived up to what that huge market deserves.
    Why NASCAR execs seem to have all but given up on the LA market is bizarre. Certainly not brilliant marketing in one of the world's most important markets, and one of America's biggest auto markets.
   (Is it time yet to question NASCAR's scheduling here, Daytona to Phoenix to Las Vegas to Bristol and back to Los Angeles and then back to Martinsville?)
   One of NASCAR's big goals should be to present a great Sprint Cup race in the Los Angeles market...whatever it takes. Redesign the track? Slow the cars? Do something. What NASCAR has been putting on in California the past so many years simply isn't getting the job done.
   Maybe the new 2013s can do the trick.
   Hmmmm, so how did the 2013s test at California's Auto Club Speedway?

  The best race ever at California Speedway? Hmmmm. Maybe NASCAR officials should be putting a little more effort into giving Southern California/Los Angeles fans the best possible action. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




Best Race At Fontana

.....was September 2007; there were several heated battles for the lead in the event\'s first half.

Hey Mike great article as usual, sure do miss

Hey Mike great article as usual, sure do miss you in the Journal.Well you covered a lot of ground so let me give you a bit of opinion from an average fan.
First, the Denny situation.The fine is a joke, and I am no fan of Hamlin.He wasn't ranting or raving, he was asked a question and answered it honestly. Is NASCAR so insecure in it's product that the drivers can't even answer a question? Are the other drivers so job scared that they simply parrot the party line? Evidently so.Hey NASCAR, let me give you a clue- it doesn't matter, because the fans can see what's going on and that is why your TV ratings are down and you have all those empty seats each week-your product is slipping.(Empty seats at Bristol? Really?) No amount of fines or blather from the broadcast booth can change that, we aren't blind.
Secondly, the new car. I like it's look but not how it performs in traffic. Evidently Hamlin doesn't either. Would it kill NASCAR to admit they have a work in progress? You don't have to be perfect, fellas, but you could be honest. Ditch the splitter, put the old air dam back on, and allow some - read a lot- of leeway with the spoiler. Soften up the tires, try something else. You have plenty of engineers, put them to work.
Lastly, the racing product in general. I love racing and speed, that's why I became a fan all those years ago. Mike, you mention the France family in your piece. To me some of the blame for the state of affairs today lies squarely on Bill Jr's shoulders, because it doesn't appear that Brian is up for the job, and if your kid isn't able, willing and or able, then find somebody who is, "to be the caretaker of the sport. " And even if Brian doesn't know any better, Helton and Pemberton sure do. No excuse for those boys. None.
While I'm on my soapbox, and dreaming anyhow, let's get rid of the chase, shall we? If a guy has the championship wrapped up two weeks before the end of the season, so be it, good for him, and the rest of you try again and harder next year. Get rid of some of the TV commercials, not the ones that pay the bills but the ones where Nascar is pimping itself. Hello: we are aware of you and know you exist, you see we are watching this race right now. We get it. Give us some credit. Oh and by the way TV guys Danica isn't the only person on the track.
Thanks Mike, for the forum to vent, keep up the great work.

Gen-6 cars

Good article about these cars. However, I must say I disagree about the lack of time excuse. If you believe the hype three of the largest auto manufacturers in the world were intimately involved in the design of these cars. They have plenty of engineers, computers, simulators, etc, surely more than enough to optimize what is in essence a rebody of an existing, although lighter chassis.
Heck, each F1 team builds completely new cars every year. They have 12 days of track testing before the 1st race and never have the excuse of we need more time. It works or it doesn't. They dont change the rules.
In short, I think Nascar did what they generally do. Made what was basically a simple rebody out to be a much more significant deal than it really was. Now its being revealed as just that and they have egg on their face. Nothing has changed, they have the same problems that have plagued them for the past few years, and graceful no way out.

Even though the look has changed they still all

Even though the look has changed they still all look the same to me except for the wraps. And the racin isn't any better.

Good thing Nascar has hired all those PR reps,

Good thing Nascar has hired all those PR reps, isn't it? By hyping the 'Gen-6' car as the answer to all their woes, they have, yet again, shot themselves in the foot. I'd say they lost credibility with the fine on Denny, but I'm not sure they had any to lose to begin with. Once again they assume fans are so ignorant they will swallow whatever bull Nascar dishes out unable to believe what their own eyes tell them is true. BZF seems to be able to rationalize anything he chooses to be 'the truth'. I can't believe Bill Jr. thought his kid was capable of keeping his baby alive and vital. He's certainly proved that only the bottom line matters to him, and everyone else better just shut up and watch.

Great article Mike! Hope your credentials

Great article Mike! Hope your credentials are'nt pulled or you get A $25k
fine. It was amazing how much better the Nationwide race was yesterday than any of the Cup events. No one was waiting for the end of the race to
capture Chase points. No merry go round, follow the leader. Kill the
Chase and let each event stand on it's own. Keep up the great columns to
strengthen the sport.


Man...NASCAR has put us fans and the drivers in an awkward position! I love racing..all types..but my love of NASCAR has hit an all time low....AND I know it's not my fault or the drivers. So that leads me to the conclusion it's the mess the "talking heads" of NASCAR have created...and continues to refuse to fix. As far as the ever loving line NASCAR uses to put a driver in their place " you need NASCAR...we don't need you" it's about time NASCAR realizes that line REALLY should be "NASCAR needs us fans more then we need NASCAR"...we ultimately pay the drivers, tracks, officials, teams, and yes NASCAR exec's salaries through sponsor products, ticket sales and even tv cable bills...and right now I for one think the NASCAR exec's need a steep cut in salary! Enough is enough NASCAR..fix your product or us out here in fanland will move on...trust me...there's no shortage of racing events in the country...and most of them are less expensive to watch and alot more exciting!

new cars

The 1983 thunderbird was the last of the factory looking cars.It had the grill and headlight buckets and the front bumper followed the contour of the car. It looked like a street car and it make a awesome race car Gm was caught with its pants down.

This is where all the equal cars started to come into effect.Nascar let chevrolet and pontiac have this weird looking back window to even up the cars WHY? Then chevy was allowed to cover up there headlight buckets.AGAIN WHY?

When ford was running the old t-bird and cougar with a brick shape they were told to work on there cars.

Now ford has again came to the table with a stock grill and the best idenity of the new cars.Gm and toyota are still running stickers.gm and toyota should also have there stock grills on the cars it would help there idenity better.

The reason nascar cars today are so aero sensative is because the teams have no room to work.Nascar has a gear rule shock rules 1000 body template rules spring rules shock rebound rules
side window rules so no its not the teams fault the cars won\'t pass or suck up.Nascar has made so many rules that every team is running a nascar rules car not a team race car.The teams can\'t work out the bugs they have no place to go!

Too much power

The reason these cars are so aero sensitive is because they have way too much horsepower and not enough mechanical grip. Get rid of these 900hp dinosaur engines and dramatically downsize to a production ohc type engine with about 650hp. Then widen the tires 2-4" and keep the downforce the same. Let the teams alter air dam and rear spoiler angles as they see fit. Those changes would be the greatest thing Nascar could ever do to improve racing.

Hope dodge comes back think all American brands

Hope dodge comes back. think all American brands should be out there. but I am a big dodge fan and don't really care anything about watching it anymore. and it is bad when driver gets fined for telling the truth. the cars look decent but the racing at daytona did suck. NASCAR needs to return to its roots

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I'm with Randy Brown, we need Dodge back in NASCAR. I think it was a tragedy that NASCAR didnt get more involved getting a team to look at Dodge. NASCAR was very helpful getting Toyota (they bent over backwards to help them) and now they are buying up the sport just like Roush said they would. Dodge was the first manufacture to display their version on the Gen 6 car and they won the championship. I think it's a shame they are not represented. I have been to every race at Texas Motor Speedway and being from Charlotte, NC I have a long history with NASCAR but I think I will not return to the track until I see a DODGE on the track.

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