That New-Car Smell
For this season, NASCAR has unveiled its sixth generation of car (known as the Gen-6). Here are a few of the new design features:
Sleeker appearance, with a smaller "greenhouse" (the enclosed area of the car) and a more curved nose.
Larger rear spoiler, providing more aerodynamic downforce and thus more grip.
Weight reduced by 80 pounds on the right side, 70 on the left. Goal is to promote better handling and reduce stress on the right-side tires.
Body panels unique to each manufacturer and more closely resembling models in showrooms will increase the brand identity of Chevys, Fords and Toyotas on the track and, NASCAR hopes, "put the stock back into stock car racing."
Rear sway bars eliminated on oval tracks, making the car loose in corners (meaning the back slips up the track) and putting a premium on the drivers' ability to control cars.
In its first five years as a full-time Cup team, Michael Waltrip Racing ran at the back of the pack: The organization had just two wins in 396 starts. But then, in one of the biggest surprises of 2012, MWR advanced two drivers to the Chase—Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.—and Bowyer reached Victory Lane three times. "We were building a notebook and learning from each other," Bowyer said.
MWR will be a three-car team in '13: Bowyer piloting the number 15 Toyota; Truex in the number 56; and Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and the boss himself, Waltrip (above), splitting time in the number 55. If MWR continues to gain speed—and there's little reason to believe it won't, given that the 255-person operation now boasts nearly as many resources as the other elite teams—the longtime also-ran could join the sport's ruling class, alongside Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and Penske Racing.