Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 13, 2013

de la Bastide: NASCAR’s Gen 6 car passes first test on 1.5-mile oval

NASCAR is wrong to fine Hamlin

By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune columnist

— In its first appearance on a 1.5-mile oval, tracks that dominate the Sprint Cup Series, the new Gen 6 car has to be given a passing grade.

Unlike at Daytona and Phoenix, there were several green flag passes for the lead and as Kyle Busch demonstrated so adroitly, cars could be passed.

I wouldn’t go as far as some of the television announcers who proclaimed that they were tired of hearing people complain that you couldn’t pass with the new car.

It’s much too early to declare the aerodynamic problems with the car have been resolved after one race. I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude that the Gen 6 car will continue to provide some good racing on the 1.5-mile ovals.

Busch and Kasey Kahne exchanged the lead several times and Kahne and teammate Jimmie Johnson also were able to swap the point numerous times.

From watching the Las Vegas race last Sunday, it appeared that the multi-car teams from Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are ahead of the curve in figuring out the nuances of the new car.

Matt Kenseth scored the win for Gibbs with teammate Busch finishing fourth. Three Hendrick drivers finished in the top 10 — Kahne (second), Johnson (sixth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (seventh).

Roush-Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing still appear to be struggling with the handling of the new car. Edwards was the top finishing driver in the Roush stable, recording a fifth-place finish. Harvick led the RCR drivers with a ninth-place showing.

This weekend the series heads to Bristol for the battle on the half-mile where aerodynamics are not as crucial to a good finish.

The other thing that happened during the past week concerning the Gen 6 car was NASCAR’s decision to fine Denny Hamlin $25,000 for disparaging comments he made about the car following the Phoenix race.

Basically, Hamlin was critical of the car in terms of how tough it was to pass on the one-mile oval.

Hamlin is appealing the fine, which should be overturned.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was asked a question by the media and he responded with an honest opinion. For that it cost him $25,000.

There seems to be a double standard taking place. After Kyle Busch won the first race in the “Car of Tomorrow,” he was critical of the performance of the car. No fine was imposed.

I guess NASCAR wants the drivers to “drink the Kool-Aid” and follow the party line when it comes to answering questions about the new Gen 6 car.

How bland is that?

In other racing news

The Speed Channel, which will soon be named Fox Sports, will provide 10 hours of coverage this Saturday of the 12 Hour Sebring race for the American LeMans Series season opener. Normally there is pretty good racing on the converted airstrip.

Ken de la Bastide may be reached at ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8580.