By most measures, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Gen-6 race car passed its Daytona International Speedway debut with flying colors.
The racing from Sprint Unlimited through Budweiser Duel and the Daytona 500 was close and intense – and fans applauded the new look of the Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry.
“I noticed something last night coming out of the track for dinner, just seemed to be a different vibe inside the infield,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his post-Daytona 500 media interview. “People seemed more excited about what was getting ready to happen today.
“I think it’s a great way to start the season. The car is doing everything we hoped it would do,” said the Daytona 500’s second-place finisher. “I think it will just get better. It’s still a brand-new car. We have a whole season and the future to improve it and learn how to make it tick.”
Now Gen-6 moves into the meat-and-potatoes portion of the schedule, beginning with Phoenix International Speedway’s one-mile oval and – on March 10 – the first intermediate layout at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where teams will get an extra day of testing.
Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson said it’s too early to judge the full potential of Gen-6, especially with the season’s first race being contested on an aerodynamic sensitive, restrictor plate-track.
“Once we get a downforce race or two behind us, we’ll have a better understanding,” Johnson said. “We’re really excited for the races to come. But it is a little early. Maybe after Vegas, Bristol, we can see which team has the upper hand.”
Mark Martin, a Phoenix winner with the previous Gen-5 platform, believes Phoenix will be an eye-opener because of the new car’s enhanced downforce. “When we get in these things next week, they are going to be stuck like glue and we’re going to be breaking track records,” Martin said.