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NASCAR promotes new Sprint Cup race car

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
NASCAR president Mike Helton speaks before Nationwide Series practice for the Indiana 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday, July 26, 2012. (AP)

DETROIT – In a makeshift showroom at the College for Creative Studies, NASCAR president Mike Helton unveiled on Tuesday the Generation-6 stock car that debuts at the Daytona 500 later this month.

The Gen-6, tested exhaustively the past month at Daytona International Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, has proven to be faster and more mechanically advanced than the Car of Tomorrow — a larger, aerodynamically challenged car introduced to the Sprint Cup Series in 2007.

While speed and maneuverability are invaluable assets, Helton focused primarily on the new car's style and design. NASCAR officials and the circuits' three manufacturers — Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet — were tasked with creating race cars with unambiguous brand identity.

“There's no better visible indication of NASCAR continuing to work on its success than the 2013 Sprint Cup car,” Helton said. “Just the appearance of it gives the average fan some excitement and it relates our sport to the American automobile business. It helps the fan to identify with the driver and the brand.

“Our (NASCAR) heritage has always relied on the vehicles participating in the sport. We've got three iconic brands that have worked with us. We have made great strides working with the manufacturers the past several years.”

The governing body for Sprint Cup retires the CoT after two tightly contested Chase championships. Brad Keselowski edged out Clint Bowyer and five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson last year, and Tony Stewart narrowly survived a challenge from Carl Edwards in 2011.

“It's something the fans were looking for, and a small experiment that showed the scale of excitement for this opportunity was in Nationwide when we brought back the Mustang,” said Jamie Allison, director of Ford North America Motorsports. “We knew there was a yearning, a thirst, an appetite from the fan to be reconnected to the brands they love.”

Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition for NASCAR, said it took two years to develop the Gen-6. He acknowledged that NASCAR and the manufacturers made several concessions after conceiving the idea of developing the Gen-6 in 2009.

Among the concessions, Helton announced yesterday the names of drivers and manufacturers will be displayed on the front windshield for the first time.

“We feel we implemented things along the way to improve the car,” Pemberton said. “So, we're not going to just shove it out of the door, and go racing. Our work isn't done. Everybody was geared up for a new challenge. We were collectively positive and excited about creating something new.”

Pemberton added the organization will remain flexible in an effort to implement additional changes to both the cars and rules, in part, to narrow the competitive gap between heavily funded teams and smaller stock-car programs.

“We learned early on we had to be flexible,” Pemberton said. “We had to let the new car dictate what the rules would turn out to be.”

Still, the rules are likely to favor the more dominant teams: 10-time Cup champion Hendrick Motorsports, three-time champion Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing.

“A lot of the rules we've had in recent years were designed to minimize the gap between the more heavily resources teams and those that aren't as fortunate,” Helton said.

The Gen-6 is the latest developmental partnership between NASCAR and the manufacturers. They combined the past two years to perfect the ethanol blend and enhance fuel injection.

“For us, it was a win all around,” Allison said. “There was a perception that we were in a battle with NASCAR, but we were totally aligned on those three factors. NASCAR pushed us further on the design to get it to look more like the production car.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com or @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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