By David G. Firestone
I would like to discuss some issues that have come up in recent weeks with the new Gen 6 car. These issues seem minor, but with this new car, they need to be addressed. And because these issues are issues, it leads to a conclusion that is kind of stunning in my mind.
Two issues revolve around Denny Hamilin. The first is his $25,000 fine for “criticizing the product.” and I’ll get to that in just a minute. The other one is his massive L1 Compression fracture that he suffered at Fontana. This injury should never have happened, but it did. The Gen 5 cars, as unattractive as they were design-wise, were safety-focused. The discussion on how safe they were ended with Michael McDowell’s scary wreck during qualifying at Texas in 2008. The car suffered serious damage, but McDowell was unhurt. This wreck was just as bad, but Hamlin is out of the car until he is fully healed.
NASCAR needs to be safety-focused, putting driver and fan safety before anything else. The fact that Denny has an L1 compression fracture because of a wreck is proof that there is a lot of room for improvement in the Gen 6 car. That isn’t the only issue with the car that needs to be addressed. The car seems to change with each race. At a super speedway, the spoiler is lower than it is at other tracks. At intermediate tracks the roof cameras are not used for reasons that have yet to be explained to the general public. It almost seems as though NASCAR is making the rules up as they go along. Please pick a design and setup and stick with it.
The other issue that needs to be discussed is penalties surrounding the new car. Denny Hamlin was fined $25,000 for saying that the car has room for improvement. Why was he fined for that? I understand that the car was designed by many different people, who put a lot of time and effort into it, but here is the thing…the people who designed the car are not the ones who are the focal point of racing, the driver is. If the drivers are complaining about the car not being competitive, and not driving the way it is supposed to, it should be addressed. The Gen 4 and Gen 5 cars went through a lot of refining, and so should the Gen 6 car.
One penalty that was issued was to Penske Racing for having suspension parts unapproved by NASCAR. Although all of Ford’s engines come from Roush Yates, many teams use their own designs for equipment used in the car. As such, these parts have to be approved by NASCAR. Obviously these parts weren’t approved. Yet Penske, Brad Keselwoski, and Joey Logano are swearing up and down that they were legal, and working in a gray area. If the parts are unapproved, they are unapproved.
The other major penalty was to Matt Kenseth for having a connector rod that was 3 grams under the minimum weight required by NASCAR. My concern with this issue is that the engine in question came from Toyota Racing Development. TRD knows what the rules and regulations are, and they knew what the parts should have been. I do not believe for a second that of the people involved with making the engine, not one of them knew didn’t realize that the parts were illegal. They knew what it was, and they sent it out anyway. That brings up an important question. 8 teams in the Sprint Cup work with TRD. In total that accounts for 10 different teams. Each team has a primary and backup car. There is also an additional engine at the teams disposal. So for each Toyota team there are 3 engines for use. If Matt Kenseth is running illegal equipment, who else is?
On to paint schemes…
Brad Keselowski #2 Redd’s Apple Ale Ford Fusion Black and Red is always a good scheme, and the overall design is good. The sticking point for me with this scheme is that APPLE ALE is almost invisible on the quarter panel. So for a final grade, it gets a B-
Tony Stewart #14 National Wild Turkey Federation Chevy SS Good color scheme and overall design, but the major issue I have is with the NATIONAL WILD TURKEY being on a curve and not as visible It gets a B-
Jeff Gordon #24 AARP Chase Card Chevy SS The color and designs are all over the place, and the giant credit card on the hood is pretty ugly. Not good at all, F
Kevin Harvick Bell Helicopters Chevy SS A simple design with a good color scheme. Not much else to say other than good job, and it gets an A grade.
Jeff Burton #31 Airgas-Bulwark Chevy SS Meh. That sums it up. Uninspired color scheme, and bland design give it a mediocre look and a C- grade.
Jeff Burton #31 American Ethanol Chevy SS Good color scheme and design. A-
David Ragan #34 CSX Play It Safe Ford Fusion This is a very solid scheme, with great colors, great design and an overall great look. CSX did this scheme very well and it gets an A+
JJ Yeley #36 NASCAR Day Chevy SS Another simple yet attractive scheme that works very well. Nothing more to say than great job, and enjoy your A grade.
David Gilliland #38 EZ Pawn Ford Fusion Good color scheme though the design is a bit over complex. As such it gets a B+.
Ryan Newman #39 Code 3 Associates Chevy SS Ok, you can have either flames OR a racing stripe, but not both. Because the combo takes a good design and makes it into a horrible design. The only thing giving this scheme a passing grade is the color scheme being as good as it is, but it earns a D-
Bobby Labonte #47 Pine Sol Toyota Camry Yet another simple yet amazing good scheme that earns an A grade!
Elliot Sadler #81 Alert Energy Gum Toyota Camry A good scheme with a consistent design and a decent color scheme that earns a B+ grade.
Travis Kvapil #93 Dominion Raceway Toyota Camry Am I the only one who thinks it is odd that a speedway that doesn’t exist yet is sponsoring a car for one race? That aside, the door design needs work, but the color scheme is solid, and I give it a B-