Improving competition on intermediate, down force-type tracks was paramount in designing the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ new Gen-6 race car.
It’s still early, but two races on the targeted layouts – Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway – have produced memorable events.
Matt Kenseth blunted Kasey Kahne’s dramatic, final-laps pursuit in Las Vegas. Kyle Busch overtook the dueling – and ultimately, crashing – rivals Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin on the final lap in Southern California.
The 31 green flag passes for the lead were the most ever at Las Vegas. There were 2,342 green flag passes throughout the field, nearly doubling last year’s 1,301 involving the Gen-5 cars.
Auto Club’s 41 green flag passes for the lead matched the track record since inception of loop data statistics in 2005.
Saturday’s NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway provides the next intermediate track challenge for the Gen-6 Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry. It’s also the first race of the 2013 season to be held under the lights with a 7:30 pm. ET start time.
With the Fort Worth track expected to provide the year’s fastest non-restrictor plate lap times seen to date – the track record is in excess of 196 mph – NASCAR has scheduled a Thursday test to assist teams in further massaging their Gen-6 equipment.
Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson split last year’s pair of Texas victories. Biffle, who’d missed the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ in 2011, continued a Texas tradition. Every winner of the spring race has qualified for post-season competition in the Chase era, although none has won the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Johnson returns to the Lone Star State in a virtual re-run of fall 2012. The five-time champion is riding high after a Coors Light Pole to checkered flag victory at Martinsville Speedway – a snapshot of last year’s Chase performance. Johnson is the series points leader, just as he was last fall and the 2013 season’s first two-time winner.
The Californian led his 14,000th NASCAR Sprint Cup lap last Sunday and approaches another milestone. Saturday night’s race will be Johnson’s 500th NASCAR national series start.
Johnson has good feelings about this week’s race – and his No. 48 Chevrolet SS.
“We ran really good at Vegas, and California didn’t go as well as we wanted, but it’s a much different racetrack than what we have at Texas,” the two-time Texas winner said. “We’re still learning this car on the big tracks. Fontana we were certainly trying some things and smarter leaving there, and I know that these guys will work hard and give me a great car this coming race.