The Frontstretch: From The Drawing Board To Daytona: What Makes A Gen-6 Car A Gen-6 Car by Mike Neff -- Monday January 28, 2013

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There is no question that fans will be bombarded with the term “Gen-6” car throughout 2013, especially in the first few weeks of the season. But what does that mean, and how is this car different from the oft-criticized CoT?

Six years after the Car of Tomorrow’s debut, NASCAR hopes to erase those memories with a new chassis. But will the problems this Gen-5 caused be fixed with a new body style?

Let’s attempt to find out. There are a few obvious aspects of this “reformed chassis” that clearly identify it as a Gen-6. The most obvious one is that the bodies on the cars more closely resemble those that can be purchased off the showroom floor. The adjustment, aesthetic in nature was done to please fans who felt the three remaining makes of Ford, Chevy, and Toyota had begun to look exactly the same. On this part of the car, there’s been near universal praise on design that strikes a similar tone to the Nationwide Series chassis revolution earlier this decade. The message, it seems is clear in both cases: people want to physically see differences between models on the track, not some “generic-looking frame” across the board that was often the label of NASCAR’s Gen-5 version, the Car of Tomorrow. Another small, aesthetic addition is the driver’s name will now be displayed across the top of the windshield, leading to easier identification by not just fans but drivers as well.

Some other changes, built to improve safety and increase competition won’t be obvious to the naked eye. On the roll cage of the car, a bar has been added across the front of the halo on the top of the greenhouse (the cockpit where the driver resides). The bar is called a Newman bar, named after Ryan Newman, who twice experienced cage malformation when his car got upside down. The bar is designed to prevent collapses from happening, leaving plenty of stability between the driver’s head and the roof while making it nice and easy for them to get out of the race car.

The hood and decklid of the Gen-6, in another slight adjustment are going to be made by a third party vendor and constructed out of carbon fiber. While the material is a bit more exotic and expensive, the process will provide for identical parts for all cars that will not allow for modification. One piece that astute fans will notice is that the tether squares, which were visible just below the windshield on the hood of the car, will no longer be visible from the outside.

The rear deck fin, which has been called a shark fin from time to time, that runs down the C-Post and across the left side of the deck lid will now be made of clear polycarbonate. The main change that will be truly visible to fans is the change in the body of the car. The nose, fender wells and door panels will all resemble the production cars which can be purchased off of the showroom floor.

Another major safety adjustment is connected to a 1990s innovation that kept cars from flipping. The roof flaps that deploy when the cars turn around, to keep them on the ground, have been modified, are bigger, and — as was displayed at Daytona during the testing incidents — deploy sooner than the older version of the car. It’s another great technology twist as NASCAR continues to lower driver risk during wrecks.

Finally, the rear of the car has been changed to allow for rear camber. The “crabbing” that had become so prevalent with the last generation Cup car has been eliminated; teams won’t be able to “angle” the cars in that way to increase speeds effectively. However, teams can now build camber into the rear end of the car which will certainly add to their handling ability.

Here’s a few different specifications that have adjusted, from the old car to the new:

Total Weight: 3,300 to 3,450 lbs
Right Side Weight: 1,620 to 1,700 lbs
Left Side Weight: 1,680 to 1,750 lbs
Length: 196.2 to 198.5 in
Width: 74 to 77 in

Other specs for the 2013 Cup car include:

Models: Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry
Year: 2013
Engine: Cast Iron 358 Cubic Inch V8 with Aluminum Cylinder Heads
Average Horsepower: 850 9000 RPM *Compression Ratio:* 12:1 *Torque:* 550 ft/lbs 7500 RPM
Top Speed: Approx. 200 MPH
Transmission: 4-speed
Fuel: Sunoco Green E15
Front Suspension: Independent coil springs, panhard bar
Rear Suspension: Trailing arms, coil springs, panhard bar
Chassis: Rectangular steel tubing with integral roll cage
Body Length: 196.5 inches
Body Width: 77 inches
Height: 54 inches
Weight: 3,300 pounds without driver
Rear Spoiler: 61 inches wide by 7 ¼ inches high
Gear Ratio: 3.60 to 6.50
Wheelbase: 110 inches
Wheels: Steel 15 inches x 9.5 inches
Tread Width: 61.5 inches
Brakes: Disc

For those who wonder why this chassis is called the sixth generation car, NASCAR claims the previous five can be broken down into different eras. The “first generation,” according to their historians was from the beginning of the sport in 1948 through 1966. The cars, during that time had a stock frame and body; it was just like the models you drove on the street. In fact, the doors were still in place on most entries — they just had to be strapped or bolted closed. Heavy duty rear axles were required to try and limit cars from flipping; other than that, most cars could compete “as is” and be driven off the racetrack.

From 1967 through 1980, NASCAR moved to a “Gen-2” chassis. The cars still had a stock body, but they were pared to a modified frame. Certainly, the “look” for fans was similar to what they drove on the street but no longer were these speedsters exactly like their commercial counterparts.

From 1981 through 1991, the sport had the third generation car, a transition where some of the modern changes you see today began to occur. The wheelbase was reduced to 110 inches, the frames were now highly modified, and the front air dam was added below the front bumper. Body panels were still purchased directly from the manufacturer, but many other parts of the car became specialized. 1992 through 2006, for NASCAR was the advent of “Gen-4,” where the bodies begin to be greatly modified from the stock version of the cars. Noses and tails were based off the production cars but they were made from fiberglass. The rest of the car bodies were tweaked dramatically by the teams and the utilization of wind tunnels became far more commonplace in the sport.

2007 through 2012 was the fifth generation of the car and was also known as the Car of Tomorrow. The focus of the car was safety, where the greenhouse was greatly expanded and the driver was moved closer to the car’s centerline. The body and chassis were exactly the same for all manufacturers, with only decals differentiating them from each other. The car had a splitter added to the bottom of the air dam and a wing was initially installed on the car to increase aerodynamic adjustability.

How long will the Gen-6 last? Only time will tell. But now you’re prepped and ready to know the differences heading into 2013.

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01/28/2013 10:23 PM

Six years of the Car of Tomorrow were seven years too many.


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