Thankfully for NASCAR fans, there really isn’t an off season to deal with. Yeah, there might not be any “real” racing, but there are award banquets, testing, and media stops between the Homestead Finale and the Daytona Opener. There are also the endless questions that arise when NASCAR changes or add a new element into the upcoming season. This year, there are quite a few. With a new car, driver changes, and even new drivers entering the series full time, there is going to be a lot to look out for and prepare for this season.
Let’s start with the new car. Called the Generation 6 or Gen-6 for short, this new car models the body style of its original show room sibling. This just means that the Ford Fusion on the track will look like the Ford Fusion at your nearby Ford Dealership, same with the Chevy SS and the Toyota Camry, thus bringing back the true meaning to “Stock Car” racing. There have been a few dilemmas that have already arisen with this new car, the biggest being evident in the second afternoon session of Daytona Winter Testing. Dale Earnhardt Jr, a Chevy, tried bump drafting with Marcos Ambrose, a Ford, which in turn ended up wrecking most of the drafting field. Turns out that the differences in front and rear bumpers cause a problem. Will this change the outcome of Daytona and Talladega? Is tandem drafting a thing of the past? We will have to wait and see.
There are going to be a few new faces to the Sprint Cup schedule as well as some familiar faces behind very different numbers. Matt Kenseth will no longer be behind the wheel of the Roush Fenway Racing #17. After 13 years, Kenseth has jumped ship to Joe Gibbs Racing to get behind the wheel of the #20, previously driven by Joey Jogano. Logano now moves to the famed #22 Shell/Pennzoil that was driven by A.J. Allmendinger. Kurt Busch will be in the 78 for Furniture Row Racing and Allmendinger will share a ride with Regan Smith in the #54 car for Phoenix racing which Busch drove previously. If all of that made sense to you, I applaud you. Thanks in part to NASCAR, drivers last names will now be on the windshield, making all of these driver changes a little less confusing.
The Sprint Cup Series will also have a pretty exciting Rookie of the Year battle this season as two-time Nationwide Series Champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr and the polarizing queen herself Danica Patrick battle it out for the coveted title. Stenhouse, who took over the #17 from Matt Kenseth, had only six Cup starts last season with his best being 12th at Dover. Patrick, an IndyCar transplant, completed two part-time and one full-time season in the Nationwide Series along with 10 Sprint Cup races last year. She was well on her way to a top-15 finish in Phoenix until she was turned into the wall by Jeff Burton and finished 17th, her best Cup finish to date. Many people have already dubbed Stenhouse as the winner but don’t let Patrick fall by the wayside. She has 3-time Champ Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman by her side to help her along, as well as Crew Chief Tony Gibson. Look for Patrick to surprise her fans, critics, and even herself this season. We won’t have a clear picture on who will win Rookie of the Year until well into the season. Will Stenhouse come out of top or will Patrick take the title right out from under him?
The battle for the Sprint Cup Series Championship will be interesting to watch. Will Defending Champion Brad Keselowski make it two in a row or will someone else come in and take it away. Can Mr 5-time himself Jimmie Johnson finally get his 6 Pack? Or will Kasey Kahne get his chance at glory? The battle for the title this year will be as exciting as ever and we might not know who will win until the checkered flag at Homestead.
The 2013 season will have its fair share of ups and downs as well as its shocking moments no one can predict (example: the Jet Dryer). So stay tuned, the Daytona 500 is right around the corner. My only piece of advice is this, don’t miss a minute of this season, you might regret it.