Gen-6 car's Road to Daytona begins in Detroit
February 05, 2013, Scott Held, Special to the NASCAR Wire, NASCAR.com
DETROIT -- NASCAR used the birthplace of America's auto industry as the kick-off point in the latest phase of the Gen-6 race car's introduction.
During Tuesday's Autoweek Racing Conference -- the first stop on the NASCAR #Gen6 Road to Daytona Fueled by Sunoco -- NASCAR President Mike Helton continued the rollout of the Gen-6 platform, the sport's first revision since 2007.
"We've found that four of five of our fans have an affinity for the brand of car," he said. "A lot of those relationships are even older than the relationship with their favorite driver."
"We'll see what happens when they're door-to-door."
-- Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition
During Tuesday morning's panel, Helton announced that the manufacturer's brand badge will now flank the drivers' names atop their windshields.
"We believe this will help build the identity of the driver with the race car and their relationship with the manufacturer," Helton said.
To that end, NASCAR worked closely with Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota to develop new cars that match the profiles of stock models sold in showrooms. This sixth generation of car will more closely resemble the cars fans can purchase.
The new cars feature body panels unique to the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry and Chevrolet SS, and Kim Brink, NASCAR's vice president of brand, consumer and series marketing, said it’s part of an aim to strengthen the way fans view the cars on the track vis-a-vis the cars sold in showrooms.
"The new car is a game-changer for us in marketing," she said.
Manufacturers usually adapt a race car's design after a production car hits showrooms, but Chevrolet will turn the tables in Daytona when it introduces the 2014 SS. The NASCAR model will race later that evening in The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, and Jim Campbell of Chevrolet Performance Racing said the automaker will debut the production car in the fan midway at the speedway.
Tuesday's roundtable took place less than two miles from General Motors Corp.'s downtown headquarters.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said the Gen-6 cars also will feature new safety enhancements in the roll cages and are about 150 pounds lighter than last year's models. Feedback from drivers, he added, has been good so far but everyone is waiting to see what happens when the first green flag drops.
"We'll see what happens when they're door-to-door," he said. "Right now it's just been individual tests and guys driving by themselves."
Also in attendance at the panel session held at the College for Creative Studies were Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing, and David Wilson, senior vice president of Toyota Racing Development.
The media blitz continues tomorrow at ESPN's Bristol, Conn., headquarters and also will make stops in New York and Jacksonville, Fla., before arriving in Daytona Beach for the start of Speedweeks. The 55th running of the Daytona 500 is Feb. 24.