CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — With just over three weeks remaining until the debut of the Gen-6 race car, NASCAR is convinced its product will be better this season.
Much of the behind-the-scenes effort last year was spent on developing the car, which hits the track Feb. 15 at Daytona International Speedway for the first practice of SpeedWeeks.
The car was a collaborative effort between NASCAR, manufacturers and teams, which NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said Tuesday was "unparalleled in my 34-plus years in the sport." He said the car has "fans and the drivers as anxious as a six year old on Christmas morning."
The car was the centerpiece of NASCAR's stop Tuesday on the annual Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It was NASCAR chairman Brian France who demanded a new car in a desire to tighten up the racing, and he said Tuesday he's so far "quite satisfied" with what he's seen in testing the last two months. NASCAR has twice tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and was at Daytona earlier this month.
But it remains to be seen how NASCAR will determine if the Gen-6 car is truly a success. The first true test of the car won't come until the third race of the season, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the first 1.5-mile track on the schedule.
The racing has struggled most at the intermediate tracks, where passing was difficult and cars spread out into single-file lines. France was asked how NASCAR will know if it has achieved what it had hoped with this new car.
"I think we'll measure (success) by lead changes, we'll measure it by how it races, we'll measure it by how the drivers feel about it, and knowing that not everybody will always love every rules package or thing that we do, that's for sure, but we'll look at it very simply," he said. "Everything is designed to have closer competition, and we'll see. I'm quite confident that I know we're going to make improvements."
Unlike the last new car, the much maligned "Car of Tomorrow," drivers have been complimentary toward the Gen-6 during the three offseason test sessions.