“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” the new International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee said. “That is true.”
Now that Sprint Cup drivers have practiced with the car on Talladega Superspeedway’s 2.66-mile tri-oval, it seems the Gen-6 will be a win-win for all in today’s Aaron’s 499.
Fans will see car bodies that look more like Chevrolets, Fords and Toyotas the see on car lots, something fans have craved since the now-former “Car of Tomorrow” made sameness the order of the day.
Folks like the owner of Hendrick Automotive Group love the fact that fans see something that’s more likely to prompt them to sign a stack of papers in his office.
Folks like the owner of Hendrick Motorsports see a car that “races close,” and competitive cars throughout the field of 43 make winning more a matter of driver and pit talent. Hendrick has arguably the best, including Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson and three of the top five.
“You’ve got a brand new car that, out of the box, is just as good the car we worked on for five years,” Hendrick said. “The fans love the car because it looks like a Chevrolet or Toyota or Ford. We love the car because it handles really good on an intermediate tracks and then at the speedways, too. … I think it’s probably, in all of my years of being in the sport, I think it’s the best product they’ve ever brought to the track, and the drivers feel the same way.”
Actually, the drivers’ feelings were the mystery headed into the weekend of the Gen-6 car’s Talladega debut, and Friday’s practice sessions led to surprises.
First, Friday’s first practice held higher stakes than normal practices. Teams were well aware of weather forecasts, and rain squelched Saturday’s qualifying. That meant the field was set by times from Friday’s first practice.
Carl Edwards will have the pole for today’s race after posting a 47.958-second lap (199.675 mph). Martin Truex was second and Marcos Ambrose third.
With stakes high for that first practice, drivers couldn’t experiment much. They had to race the new car first time out on Talladega’s track.
“It was actually pretty exciting for all the teams yesterday, because we looked at this forecast, and we were all concerned that there wasn’t going to be single-car qualifying,” Edwards said. “I don’t know if you guys noticed, but it was like a heat race out there.
“Everyone was doing everything they could to lag back and partner up and get the fastest lap times they could, and it was pretty exciting.”
Drivers were expecting the car they learned in the season’s other restrictor-plate race, the Daytona 500. They got something unexpected.
“It did some things differently,” Truex said. “The biggest thing I noticed --- and it’s a different race car than we (his team) had at Daytona, so it could be partly there --- the cars seemed to suck up and get runs a whole lot better, even when we were towards the front of the pack.
“So, I think that’s a great thing for what we’ll see tomorrow in the race.”
The Gen-6 car’s performance at Talladega practice “impressed” Ambrose, who said he was able “able to do a lot more things out there” compared to Daytona.
“We were able to get runs and side draft and make progress out there, which I think, at Daytona, was difficult for us,” he said. “Whether the drivers are just getting better at learning these cars and making them work, I don’t know, but, for me, I felt more racy out there than I expected, as far as cars coming and going and making things happen.”
What will it all mean for today’s race? To hear the lead drivers in the, it sounds like Talladega on steroids.
“I mean, we were four-wide in practice once,” Edwards said. “That’s what my spotter told me. The cars seem to do a really good job of pulling up and actually passing other cars here.
“Our car was very fast. I don’t know if it’s just that our car is real fast or if everyone is like that, but it looks like it’s going to be a pretty crazy race.”
The consensus seems to be, don’t expect a Daytona repeat.
“We’ve seen quite a bit of single-file racing at Daytona, and I don’t expect the race here tomorrow to be quite that way,” Truex said. “So, I think that will be a good thing for the fans, and it should put on a great show.
“It seemed like guys were really able to get a lot of runs and make a lot of stuff happen yesterday in practice, so it should be a lot of fun.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.