NASCAR lauds lineage of Generation 6 car
In retrospect, while the so-called Car of Tomorrow helped NASCAR achieve a variety of goals in terms of safety and other initiatives, NASCAR officials now concede that perhaps it also negatively impacted other aspects of the racing.
NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said Tuesday that the car did move the sport further from the manufacturers that compete in the sport. While that was not the plan when the car debuted, now that the stock-looking Generation 6 car is drawing raves, it’s easy to see just how much fans missed the tie between the cars they drive and the ones their favorite’s race.
“Looking back, you're always 100 percent accurate when you get to look backwards, right, and I think that would be fair, that we certainly didn't intend to do that, intended to try to make racing better and costs were a huge thing, as they still are today. ... We did significantly bring costs down and safety was a big thing as it is now,” France said when asked about the shift away from manufacturer identity with the car that debuted in 2007.
“We significantly improved that. But it would be fair to say that in doing those things, we weren't as in step as we are today with the manufacturers.”
It would be easy to sweep the previous Sprint Cup car model under the rug now and point to the things about it that were viewed as less favorable than some aspects of the new model.
However, it would be rash to dismiss the model entirely.
France can point out things that were learned with each of the models — and aspects of each that benefited the series at a specific time.
“We love the new car, the Gen 6 car, and we have said that we made some errors in — really in collaboration to getting the (old) car,” he said.
“We achieved a lot of things with that car: Costs, as I said; safety went up; a lot of benefits that the industry and that the teams and drivers gained from that car.
“Obviously we got away from some things that historically had worked well for us: The manufacturer rivalry, which we're excited about; the relevance issue with the car manufacturers. And then I think we put a lot more focus in the new car into the rules package surrounding the car that we didn't put nearly — I can tell you we didn't put nearly as much science into the old car as we tried to achieve better racing.
“No sense in worrying about what happened in the past; we're excited about the future.”
NASCAR president Mike Helton agreed.
“We shouldn’t stick a dagger in the Gen 5 program and say, ‘Man, we're glad you're gone,’ because that era, that Gen 5 created a lot of great moments for NASCAR. The last two championships for one, a lot of races in its stable or its time in existence," Helton said.
“It also led to the evolution of the collaborativeness that we now operate the sport by when it comes to the parts and pieces and the cars themselves. It also served very well in an era when the car manufacturers involved in our sport were struggling with their own businesses, and we weren't a front-burner topic to them. We had a car that could survive that era. So there (are) a lot of positives to the Gen 5 era that we shouldn't overlook as we celebrate the Gen 6.”
So while he is pleased with the enthusiasm that is ushering in the new model, he cautions that one should remember it was the latest step in an evolution of models.
It should also be noted that the benefits of the new Gen 6 car go beyond just the manufacture imprint each carries, though that has received the most attention. France sees the Gen 6 model as having an impact beyond that — and even beyond the 2013 models.
France says it shows how much closer the manufacturers and NASCAR are working now than they did in recent years.
“There (are) other things that are now much more important to each of the car manufacturers that maybe wasn't as important 10 years ago, things like innovation,” he said. “We've talked about a glass dashboard. That's coming. We'll balance, again, against costs and what they want. But that's things that are going to be … they're using a lot of technology to obtain those goals and reach their goals, and they want to use the NASCAR relationship and the platform to help develop some of those, and we're going to be a very willing and good partner in doing just that.”