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When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series haulers pull into the garage Thursday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, they will be carrying a newly designed racecar. NASCAR’s sixth-generation racer (Gen 6) features a look that will seem familiar to many race fans. It’s a look that takes the sport back to its roots, when the Chevrolet that sat on the showroom floor had the same characteristics as the Chevrolet on the race track, albeit with a little less horsepower.
It’s been a labor of love for the sport but one that has been embraced by drivers, sponsors, manufacturers and fans alike. A few highlights of the new design include a chassis that is 150 pounds lighter, a nose that is two inches longer, a carbon fiber hood, three extra bars added to the roll cage, and drivers’ names displayed across the top of the windshield in addition to the traditional signature above the door.
Race teams and manufacturers have spent countless hours working with NASCAR to fine tune the Gen 6 car. “Speeds are up, down force is there. You’re going to be using the throttle a lot,” said Johnson. Excitement is evident as the season gears up for the sport’s biggest race and one thing fans and the whole sport can be proud of is the fact that “we built something together” that is sure to provide plenty to talk about this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Johnson elaborates further below:
Did the Car of Tomorrow or your team have the most to do with your past success, and how does it compare to the new Gen-6?
“When cars are difficult to drive, I tend to excel. Chad (Knaus) loves the challenge and can usually dial it in and make it comfortable for me. I also look at racetracks. You know, the quirky racetracks are where I kind of make my bread and butter – the Dovers, Martinsvilles, places like that. So I think it’s really a kind of a blend of things and really kind of a perfect storm. The COT (Car of Tomorrow) was for us and we rattled off a lot of wins and got in championship form and won some championships as a result, too. This car (Gen-6) is much more forgiving. I’m excited to get into the year and find out where the challenges are. You’re going to have to be highly committed to get a pass done. Speeds are up, downforce is there. You’re going to be using the throttle a lot. I enjoy that. I look forward to it, but the times when you’re sliding the car and the rougher the track is, that’s been better for us. So this could require me to learn how to drive the car a little bit differently and may pose a couple challenges for me getting going, but we’ll just have to get going in the season and see what’s out there.”
You did not have drafting practice at the Daytona test session. Will that hurt you? Did you learn any lessons?
“We’re in Daytona for two weeks with lots and lots of practice. And as much as we want to think that a 10-, 15-car draft is important in a test session, it’s really not what we see in the race. Sure there were a couple of lessons learned and we realized that the bumpers don’t match up all that well. I’m glad I wasn’t out there to be a part of that in the test. But the Sprint Unlimited is going to be the first real indication of how things are going to work. We don’t have a lot of parts and pieces, so we need to be smart and make sure we have racecars to get into the Duels and then the 500.”
Sprint Unlimited Race Stats:
Daytona 500 Race Stats: