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After a grueling Speed Weeks in Daytona, many call this the real first race of the season. Of course they’re wrong, but we all know what they mean. Some have even said this is the first true test of the new Gen 6 racecar and they may be right. One thing is certain though… this is the first race for the Gen 6 car on a track other than two plus miles and without restrictor plates. The smaller tracks, like this one at Phoenix, are the ones most frequented by NASCAR in the regular season. It did appear (at least to this fan) all the Cup teams were trying to gather as much information for their notebooks as they could for future tracks even though this one is unique in itself.
It is also a little different Gen 6 car than the one the teams put on the track at Daytona. Most of the changes are for down force and are to the rear of the car. If you’ve been paying attention to the many reports this week, you’ve seen exactly what and where those changes are. For those that might have missed it, it has to do with the blade (or the spoiler) on the rear deck lid and at the bottom of the body at the rear of the car. This will be the car we see the most this year and the one we saw at Daytona we will only see a few more times, (although this fan and others think there might be some tweaks to the other car at lest by the time the Cup teams visit Daytona in July.)
Judging from the practices (especially on Saturday) this fan thinks many of the teams are having a little trouble getting a handle on this newcar. At least on this one mile track it appears that way. Maybe it is just because it has been a little too easy to hook up the backend with the increased down force and that has made it more difficult to hook up the front end. Whatever it is, some have found what it takes and others are still struggling. One thing was pretty obvious though – the teams were learning fast.
Mark Martin didn’t appear to have too much trouble adjusting to this new car at all, though. He won the pole and was very fast in all three practices. If nothing else, it looks as though he should be one of the top picks to take the trip to victory lane this afternoon. Personally I think it is a bit too early make that choice, but I do admit he is looking very strong this weekend.
Depending on whether you look at the qualifying times or the lap times in the last two practices, you do see some names that were obviously fast in all three. Mark Martin is one of the most obvious but Kyle Bush is another. With the way things have been going for Joe Gibbs Racing so far I don’t think they want to get their hopes up too much too early but, it won’t surprise this fan to see all three of the JGR teams mixing it up to take the checkered flag by the end of the day.
And then there are those MWR teams. No one can deny they have been flexing a lot of muscle since last season and this season doesn’t appear to have changed that. Along with Mark Martin being fastest in the last practice, we also find Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr in the top ten. That sounds like a triple threat to this fan and I expect any of the three to be running very near the front when it comes down to the end. The only thing that might be of concern for them is some of the engine troubles experienced by the Toyotas. Even Denny Hamlin of JGR had an engine go bad as he was backing out of his garage stall. If there is one thing that might hold MWR or JGR back for taking the win, engine problems would be at the top of the list.
Although they have struggled a bit so far, the Roush Fords appear to be getting their act together, too. Both Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle had gained some speed and were in the top ten in the final practice.
I think I’ll just wait and see how the Penske and Petty Fords do. They weren’t at the top of the charts but with this being a short race I don’t expect anyone to just lay back and wait for the end to make a move.
I have noticed some are trying to make a big deal out of what is called “the feud” between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon but from my view, I think it is just a bunch of hype and I don’t expect anything to happen. It is way to early in the season and this isn’t exactly in the heat of the battle like it was last fall. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still some hard feelings in both camps but I don’t think today will be the day for payback of any kind. I guess we’ll see how it goes.
What I do expect is for this race is for it to likely develop into a fuel mileage race just like it always does. I’m hoping it doesn’t but it has before and made the end of the race less than exciting (unless you like the drama of seeing who will run out of fuel last.) You know, now that I think about it, that doesn’t sound that bad either…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© Marc h 3, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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