There’s smiles all around at Daytona. Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave the new car a thumbs up, Jeff Gordon seems pleased, and a number of fans and drivers are happy to hear the two-car tandem should be going the way of the Blue Footed Booby. It’s all just one big love fest, save for short supplies, and a number of bent up cars from Friday, serving as a teacher that racers should tread lightly when attempting to bump draft. Heck, the car even LOOKS better.
No doubt, all the buzz over pre-season testing of the newly-minted “Gen 6” car is far more favorable alternative to sitting and stewing over the NASCAR events of recent history. It’s a plus not to hear one of the sport’s leading drivers hop out of the car and say “it sucks,” a la Kyle Busch.
So, with cautious optimism we look ahead. You will have to excuse this fan takes the Missouri (“show me”) outlook. Remember all the hype surrounding the “Car of Tomorrow.” “It’s safer”, and “It will put racing in the driver’s hands,” were just some the catch phrases uttered pre-2007.
Then they started racing. While the car has certainly done it’s job to protect the driver (thank God we haven’t lost another one since The Intimidator), the car was ugly, even without the wing, and the racing spotty at best.
Daytona is the site of two of four restrictor plate races run during a NASCAR Sprint Cup season schedule. The more critical test comes at Charlotte Motor Speedway this Thursday and Friday. Will the racing improve on the intermediate tracks that so populate the season schedule? That, in this observer’s opinion, is the burning question of the hour. If they fail on the intermediate tracks, then all we have is an expensive band aid.
The good news is that the fans are invited to come out to Charlotte and see the Gen 6 car first hand. You have got to be thinking the folks at NASCAR are feeling pretty confident in their shiny new toy.
It’s not to say there’s an expectation to fully go back to the days of old. The wheels of time keep on spinning, and frankly, there’s a lot about the good old days that wasn’t that good.
We’ll never really know until we have some real races under our belts. No reasonable fan is expecting perfection, just an improvement. So far, there’s cause for guarded optimism. It’s a start.
Jim McCoy is a radio and television sports reporter and producer in Southern Oregon, where he makes his home with his wife and three children. Jim is also a radio play-by-play announcer for high school football, baseball and basketball. He was recently named Oregon Association of Broadcasters 2012 Sports Announcer of The Year- Non-commercial Division.