NASCAR executives are betting the future of their sport on their brand new race car. The new model was the focus of their preseason press conference in uptown Charlotte Tuesday.
The new car, called Gen-6, is about looking good and driving better. A video that opened the press conference showed shots of the shiny stock cars zipping around racetracks while a narrator said, "Gen-6 has arrived with an old school appeal - the racetrack and showroom arm in arm once again."
The old school appeal comes from carmakers having the freedom to put their own touches on the body of the cars again. Now you can tell a difference between the way the Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet models look, like you could with the Chevrolets and Dodges of the 1970s.
But NASCAR CEO Brian France said the new car is ultimately all about the drive.
"The goal is real simple: we want to see the closest competition that is possible," France said.
How the new car leads to better competition involves aerodynamics, and it’s a little technical. Basically, it’s designed so that air rushing over it creates more downward pressure, which gives the car more grip. The idea is that’ll give drivers more control and lead to more aggressive racing.
Here’s how France said he’ll decide if the new car is successful:
"We’ll measure it by lead changes," France said. "We’ll measure it by races. We’ll measure it by how the drivers feel about it."
It’s about creating more excitement for a sport that’s struggling to recover from the recession. NACSAR has lost some of its big-name sponsors, and attendance has dropped at some of the premier racetracks, like Talladega.
Nate Ryan covers the sport for USA Today. He says racing teams and fans have had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the way the new car looks, "but until the car actually gets on track and we see it race at these mile-and-a-half speedways where it’s been difficult to have the on-track passing, action and lead changes that NASCAR likes, it’s really going to be difficult to evaluate it."
That type of action is what fans are waiting to see, too, and it may be one of the keys to getting more of them in the stands.