Although there are 13 races remaining in the current season, many drivers already are looking forward to new cars for 2013.
NASCAR ordered changes for next year with an emphasis on returning manufacturer identity. And while the cars will look more like production models, they also will have other changes that supposed to encourage better racing.
The shift to the new cars already started when NASCAR recently raised the height of the side skirts by more than an inch. That reduces the aerodynamic downforce and puts a lot more of the car’s success in the hands of the driver.
Next year’s car will be 100 pounds lighter to take away more downforce.
“I’m all for less downforce, tires that fall off, and I really don’t care how heavy the cars are as long as we’re able to race them and the fast cars are able to move through the field,” Carl Edwards said. “I think that’s a key and I think NASCAR is working really hard.”
Teams got a feel for the new cars during a recent test session at the Martinsville Speedway.
“I’m certainly a lot more excited than I was when the [Car of Tomorrow] first came out because I feel like we’ve learned so much over the years, and all that we’ve learned and NASCAR has learned will be implemented into that car,” Jeff Gordon said.
“I think it’s great. The manufacturers are excited about it because the product recognition, being able to win on Sunday and drive that car on Monday, or a customer wanting to buy that car. It’s something that’s important, something that is definitely going to be a big part of this car for 2013.”
Wild card race getting wild
Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin have combined to win five of 23 races this year, but both are fading in the standings and could wind up being wild card entries into the Chase for the Championship.
Stewart has three wins, but he’s dropped from sixth to ninth in the standings after finishes of 19 at Watkins Glen and 32nd at Michigan.
Hamlin has two wins, but he’s gone from fifth to 10th in the past three races with finishes of 29th, 34th and 11th.
If they drop out of the top 10, it could have a drastic effect on the playoffs. Their victories should be good enough to lock in as a wild card entry. Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards are the most-likely drivers to move into the top 10 – and an automatic berth into the Chase.
Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Marcos Ambrose and Jeff Gordon each have a single victory. Unless they win one of the next three races in the regular season, they would be eliminated from playoff contention if Stewart or Hamlin drop out of the top 10.
Earnhardt Jr. lends a hand
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has spent a lot of time and money helping Shepherd Elementary School near his home in Mooresville, N.C.
“A friend of mine was playing football at that school, just little eight-year-old and 10-year-old kids,” he said. “They didn’t have any helmets or uniforms, so that’s how I started helping the school.”
Earnhardt Jr. said he enjoys being part of his community. In fact, he’s stopped by the school several times to see his neighbors. He also encourages his other neighbors to help, too.
“We’ve invested more in the school and supported the school more,” he said. “I like to do things close to home as well as the other things we work with, with our charities. I like to do some things that I can visually see myself. It was just down the road and it felt like the right thing to do.”