Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS


The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series may not be the most prestigious series on earth (it's a distant second to F1, even though in my opinion both should be well behind the whatever the world's top sports car series is at any time, but that's the fault of the ACO and the factory teams of sports car racing, not those at NASCAR or the FIA), it may not be the most competitive series on earth (it's second to the IZOD IndyCar Series, with about 70 percent of cars competitive vs about 90), but it's the clear leader in one key category; There's more true professional drivers in NASCAR than any other series. While a third of the F1 grid, a third of the IndyCar grid, half of the WRC grid and about 75 percent of the FIA WEC grid is pay drivers and amateurs, all but two full season Sprint Cup Series are funding free.

That might not be enough to sell you on a series that you've possibly only ever thought of as "boring", but I contend it's enough reason for you to give it a chance, as once you take a good hard look, you'll see that it's just as deep and interesting as any other form of motorsport, if not more.

Now, onto the article. This is the first of a few of these I'll be doing, with "a  few" depending entirely on how much interest this one generates. If you like this and want to see more for other racing series, or if you have no interest in this whatsoever and don't want to see more, sound off in the comments below.

On The Strategy of NASCAR Racing

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

Moreso than any other series these days, NASCAR's about strategy. Whether it's tire strategy, fuel strategy or just a team's ability to adjust a car over the course of the race, the best teams in NASCAR are the best because they are masters of strategy.

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

When it comes to tire strategy, NASCAR is different than most in that they only have one tire compound each week, but they don't mandate how many tires you can change. Since four tire pit stops in the series take around 13 seconds (thanks to five lugnuts per tire and only two "guns" over the wall at a time), a team can save about 6 seconds by only putting on one side of tires at a time (usually the right sides, but if the left sides are degrading more than the rights on a certain run, the lefts will be changed instead). This is done for two reasons: either because you feel under a green flag run you can get in front of a competitor not far in front of you and their tires will lose their advantage by the time they catch you or because you feel that during a caution you can keep any positions you make up by passing cars taking four tires on pit road. Some teams are huge fans of these two tire changes (last year's championship winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe, swears by them, as well as many other alternate strategy techinques), while some avoid them entirely (Jimmie Johnson's 5 time championship winning Crew Chief Chad Knaus has always stayed away from 2 tire stops whenever possible, as he doesn't like what they do to the balance of the car).

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

The most obvious strategy element is fuel. Thanks to race length and small tanks, fuel mileage often comes into play during a race, and there are a few ways to take advantage of it. A usual full fuel run on an intermediate track being 45 laps, but a driver that's actively saving fuel can run about 55 laps on a tank. If a driver can't make up the needed gap in fuel with saving techniques, they can pit early in the run and run all out to try to make up the time that their competitors will waste by attempting to save fuel. However, NASCAR's "Green-White-Checkered" overtime rules can render a fuel mileage strategy inert by extending the amount of laps a driver has to run on a tank of fuel. Often, drivers then resort to the extreme technique of shutting a car off and letting it coast behind the pace car during caution periods, in hopes they can make it to the end in the last two lap run. Finally, there is a way to save fuel before ever entering the track, and that is to run a leaner engine setup. Clint Bowyer's 15 team is believed to have done this almost all of last year, and it gave them the added benefit of a more reliable engine; While fellow TRD powered team JGR lost almost 20 engines over the course of the season, Bowyer and his MWR team mates lost under 5. Bowyer ended up winning three races in 2013, all with less-than-traditional fuel strategies that only worked thanks to his less powerful, more efficient setup. Often, the riskiest fuel strategies are only taken on by some of the more notoriously gamble happy Crew Chiefs, such as Bowyer's Brian Pattie, Earnhardt Jr's Steve Letarte and Keselowski's Paul Wolfe.

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Finally, the least obvious and most important strategic element of NASCAR racing is in-race setup adjustment. Almost all good teams have a setup that's fast and well balanced over a one lap run, but when you add in the tire wear and changes in track temperature, grip and rubbering, a setup fails to adapt on it's own. Often, a car will "loosen up" (become more oversteer prone) over the course of a run, lose pace and ultimately lose positions, and since NASCAR doesn't allow in-car adjustment tools, the only way to fix this is to adjust the car during a pit stop. Crew Chiefs have three tools to adjust quickly: spring rubbers, tire pressures and chassis adjustments (either track bar or wedge). All three ultimately change the balance of the car, with the tire pressure adjustment being the fastest (the pressures are adjusted before the tires even go over the wall to be put on the car, after all), and spring rubber adjustments being the slowest. The key is not just adjusting but knowing how much to adjust and what tools to adjust with, and the teams that are the best at that are the teams with the best communication between Driver and Crew Chief. The model of perfection here is the Jimmie Johnson - Chad Knaus pairing, with their communication abilities often being referenced as one of the many secrets to the team's success.

On The New-For-2013 "Generation 6" Race Cars (Which Are Really Generation 5.5)

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

You may have heard that NASCAR has new cars in it's top series this season. That's true, but not really accurate.

The reality is that NASCAR's got a new set of bodies that will make the cars look thousands of times better (and ultimately better the racing on intermediate tracks significantly), but the chassis underneath is nearly the same as the 2007-2012 "COT". The car is marketed as "Generation 6", but in reality it's a halfway step between Generation 5 and Generation 6, and is thus Generation 5.5. That doesn't roll off the tongue very well though, and thus the car will be referred to as "Generation 6" in the remainder of this preview.

So, if this is only a visual change, why is this so important? Because on big ovals, aerodynamics define the way cars race against each other almost more than anything else. With the old COT, it was nearly impossible to pass on "cookie cutter" style intermediate tracks and thus racing was rather boring. From what I've heard after testing, this is entirely changed with Generation 6, and racing on mile-and-a-half tracks should again be at least marginally interesting (as it was before the COT's debut) and not a chore as they were last year.

Furthermore, a group of attractive and unique cars replacing a group of ugly and bland cars is never a bad thing. Keselowski's 2013 Fusion (pictured in the title) is now a thing of beauty, a phrase that hasn't been used to properly describe a NASCAR racer since 1973.

On The Diversity of Tracks (or: Ovals Are More Different Than You Think)

One of the most common misconceptions about oval racing is that, because they all have four turns, all oval tracks race in a similar way. In reality, the opposite is true, with the variance in racing styles between the flat 2.5 mile oval at Indianapolis and the banked 2.5 mile oval at Daytona being greater than the variance in racing styles between the wide, incredibly fast Spa Francorchamps circuit and the narrow, incredibly slow Monaco GP circuit.

If you ask NASCAR, there's only four types of tracks in the series (Short Tracks, Intermediates, Super Speedways and Road Courses), but the reality is that there's 7: True Short Tracks, Intermediate Short Tracks, "Cookie Cutter" Intermediates, True Intermediates, Flat Intermediates, Super Speedways and Natural Terrain Road Courses. Temporary Road Courses, Street Circuits and Dirt Tracks have all been used in the past, but have faded from the Sprint Cup schedule over time.

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

The first of these types of track are the most simple, and in many opinions the best: True Short Tracks. These 3/4 to 1/4 mile ovals with sharp corners are best described as "a hairpin followed by a drag strip". On a track like this, you break hard into turns 1 and 3 and struggle with wheelspin as you power out of turns 2 and 4. To pass on a track like this, you often have to use a "bump and run" technique (a move where the passing car bumps the leading car out of the racing line in the middle of the corner with the sole intent of passing and no intent of damaging the lead car, then pulls away on the straight), though if the leading driver is cooperative a more traditional overtaking technique is used. An example of a true short track is Martinsville Speedway.

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

Next in size is what I like to call the Intermediate Short Track. These are like the true short tracks, but larger and faster. They're usually longer (between 3/4 of a mile and 1 mile) and often have much wider and faster corners. On tracks like these, the racing is like what you'd see on a short track, but with far less intentional contact. Since the cars are going faster, you can only use a "Bump and Run" maneuver in the center of a corner, when the cars are at their lowest speed. An example of an intermediate short track is Phoenix International Raceway

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

Sadly, the largest group of tracks in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series today are the "Cookie Cutter" (named as such because every 1.5 mile oval, save Homestead-Miami Speedway, is so similar in design) 1.5 mile Intermediates. If you equate "NASCAR" with "boring", a race at one of these tracks is probably to blame. These tracks, usually in the shape of a "D", are fairly high speed and are honestly known best for boring racing. The Generation 6 car should help allevaite some of that by producing less "dirty air" (the anomaly created when the air coming off the rear of a leading car makes it hard for a faster trailing car to pass), but a good car can only do so much at a bad track. The best way to pass on a circuit like this is to get a run on the leading car out of turns 2 or 4, then dive inside of them into turns 3 or 4, but opportunities like that are rare unless you're driving the strongest car in the field. An example of a "cookie cutter" intermediate is Charlotte Motor Speedway.

A small footnote on "Cookie Cutter" tracks: there is a cure to "cookie cutter" boredom, and it's progressive banking. Essentially, the idea is to shape the banking like a bowl, with higher banks in the top groove and lower banks in the bottom groove. This creates a larger passing zone and, thus, often much better racing. Currently, only two cookie cutter tracks feature this system: Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway. Of course, the better fix to these tracks would be tearing them down and building a Martinsville style short track, but that costs far more than adding a bit of pavement in the top of the corners...

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

Of course, intermediate racing isn't just "cookie cutters", as you've also got a trio of True Intermediates, tracks that are similar in racing style to the "cookie cutter" tracks, but different in design. In this group, you have the twins of California Speedway (now called Auto Club Speedway) and Michigan International Speedway as well as the entirely unique 1.5 mile, trioval free Homestead-Miami Speedway. It's worth noting that while the two extremely wide two mile tracks in Michigan and California were originally identical, the two are on entirely different repaving schedules, and thus provide fairly different racing. Again, to pass on these tracks you'd pull the same move you would pull on an intermediate, but it's much easier to make a pass on these tracks because Homestead-Miami has tight corners (and progressive banking), while Michigan and California are extremely wide.

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

Ending our surprisingly long tour of intermediate oval racing is the final group of intermediates is the Flat Intermediate group. These tracks, Pocono Speedway and the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, have individual road course style corners (3 at Pocono, 4 at Indianapolis), a stark contrast from the traditional oval (in which turns 1 and 2 blend together). Despite having such strange corners, these two tracks are extremely fast thanks to their massive straightaways. This means that setups at either circuit are extremely compromised, and thus cars are a challenge to control. Unfortunately, racing on these two tracks is far from intense in a stock car, as they aren't wide enough to do anything but a one-on-one overtake. Combine this with the COT's "dirty air" issue, and these circuits have seen what many have described as "rather fast parades" over the past few years. The new cars should help this, but honestly there's only so much you can do in tracks clearly designed for (and clearly better for) open wheel racing. I'm honestly a fan of the idea of moving these races to Nazareth Speedway (though that would require a total rebuild of the circuit) and Indianapolis Raceway Park, but I'm sure the owners of Pocono and IMS would not like that nearly as much as I would. What's most important, of course, is that these tracks aren't ruined for American Open Wheel Racing in the name of NASCAR.

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

The final group of ovals in NASCAR is the least traditional and logical of all, the Super Speedway circuits. There's just two of these, the Daytona International Speedway and the Talladega Super Speedway, and they don't require lifting off the throttle whatsoever. Thus, "packs" of cars form, and passing is done by drafting up behind a car and then using the run produced by that draft to overtake literally anywhere on the track. This creates exciting racing, but unfortunately it's more notable for creating large wrecks when somebody screws up. Stock cars used to be wholly unrestricted here as they are everywhere else, but NASCAR added restrictor plates in the 80s to slow them down when they got to 220 miles per hour in qualifying and, thus, launched into the air when they spun.

Another factor in Super Speedway racing (often called "pack racing" or "restrictor plate racing", on account of the packs and the restrictor plates) is the idea of a "bump draft", which is what happens when a trailing car uses the momentum it gains from the draft and violently applies it to the car in front, propelling them both to an even higher speed. This helps pairs of cars make passes in the draft, but it also overheats the trailing car and, quite obviously, adds the dangerous factor of total blindness for the trailing car. NASCAR has been working on their Super Speedway formula for a while now, and over the last decade it's gone through plenty of changes. However, today they've essentially returned back to what they had circa 2005, with the small additions of smaller rear spoilers (to lessen the power of the draft and increase visibility while bump drafting) and smaller radiators (to make cars overheat faster when bump drafting, essentially restricting continuous bump drafting sessions to a lap at the longest).

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

Finally, the last group of NASCAR circuits is simultaneously the most simple and the most complex: Road Courses. There's plenty of different types of road courses, but both of the ones that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runs (Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway, also known as Sears Point) are permanent natural terrain road courses. The two are very different in design of course, with Watkins Glen being wider and faster and Sonoma narrower and slower. On road courses, NASCAR stock cars basically race like V8 Supercars, only with more power, more tire and less downforce. In other words, they're a handful, and the racing is full of contact and overtaking. As I'm sure you all know, to overtake on a road course, your best bet is to brake later and dive further into a tight corner than your opponent, sacrificing your exit speed to get in front of the leading car.

If anyone's asking for my informed but far from expert opinion (and I know you aren't!), I'd personally say that if you want to watch a NASCAR race, make sure that you give a true short track or a road course a try before you write the series off. The bigger ovals are really an acquired taste, and it's hard to take interest in them if you aren't already invested in the rest of the series, but those short track and road course events are truly wonderful.

On The National Development Series

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

NASCAR is unique in that their feeder series are almost as big a deal as their top series, and that's for good reason. While other feeder series (like F1's GP2 and IndyCar's Firestone Indy Lights) are almost entirely large groups of 16-20 year old kids whose parents bought them rides only two year removed of kart racing, both of NASCAR's nationally televised series (the tier 2 Camping World Truck Series and the tier 3 Nationwide Series) are themselves professional levels, with people who'll never advance to the Sprint Cup Series carving out careers for themselves at that level. This means they are a legitimate fallback position for Sprint Cup Series drivers that lose their top rides, and thus they have fairly incredible driver lineups (for example, Nelson Piquet Jr, one time F1 podium finisher and one time Fernando Alonso race fixer, is a full time driver in the Nationwide series this year). What's more, many Sprint Cup Series drivers in no danger of losing their rides often run these races for further experience before the big race on Sunday.

Thus, I've determined these series each worthy of their own (admittedly smaller) previews and they won't be touched on in this article. If you don't want to read either of those articles when they're done, I'll summarize them here: the Truck Series has a race on a dirt track this year, Darrell Wallace Jr is a pretty cool guy, the Dillons are probably going to lead their respective championships for a while but not win either and Regan Smith will probably win the Nationwide championship.

On Caution Periods as Part of the Show

In NASCAR, cautions (also referred to as yellow flag periods or safety car deployments) are called far more often than in any other series. This is partially because the series is overly cautious, partly because a car can't be recovered on an oval as safely as it can on a road course, and partly because NASCAR sees a caution as "part of the show".

Yes, the top brass in the series have realized over the years that caution periods can add interesting strategy variables and bunch the field back up, and thus all of NASCAR's top three series have become overzealous with their use of the caution flag, and thus often call cautions for things like lone spins and debris on track (but off line). When the debris that brings out cautions in the latter scenario isn't shown, you have what is called by many a "phantom debris" caution. Conspiracy theorists will tell you that there isn't really debris there, but the reality is that it's small and thus likely missed by the director.

In other words, yes NASCAR creates cautions where there shouldn't be any, but no they do not do it whenever they want. There is no "debris cannon", there's just a guy in a booth that's way too excited to push the big yellow button. It's fishy, but it's not done discriminantly, to help Danica Patrick get her lap back or otherwise.

After all, as I've always said, if NASCAR was trying to influence the outcomes of their races, Dale Earnhardt Jr would win far more often than he does, would he not?

On NASCAR's "Playoffs" (The Chase)

After Matt Kenseth's particularly dominating 2003 championship run, NASCAR made the same decision that the NFL, NBA and MLB all did at one point: They added a playoff system. What they created was called "The Chase", and essentially it's a postseason for the top 12 drivers in the series. It's something that wouldn't work in any other series, and it only works here because there's such a large field in a single class (37 or so full season entries) and so many rounds (36).

It's a controversial subject, with many purists arguing against it, but I'm personally accepting of it. That doesn't mean I liked it at first, but as with many others I've grown to enjoy it over time. It's created some amazing moments over time (such as 2011, where Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart tied for the champoinship, with Stewart winning the title on a tiebreaker) and some less than amazing ones (such as 2009, where Jimmie Johnson basically had to finish the final race at Homestead to win the title), but it's produced more excitement than not.

The Drivers

Originally, this section was going to include a paragraph on each driver, but I realized after writing about half of them that nobody's going to read that anyway (after all, most of you probably do not care that Brad Keselowski is still looking to buy the tank he promised himself after he won the championship last year, even though you all should because tanks are awesome). Thus, I've done what I did for the Rolex 24 at Daytona preview and included only numbers and facts.

Also taking from my Rolex 24 at Daytona preview, I've added some subjective numbers. The team rating judgest the overall organization and quality of the teams running and engineering a driver's given car on a scale from one to five, while the car, engine and driver ratings follow the same pattern.

Drivers are organized here by their car's manufacturer, their team, then their number. Originally, this section featured some pictures of sexy sexy race cars for each driver, but then I realized that only about 10 of the 30 or so teams here have high res, in livery pictures available.

FORD

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

My, my, my, what a beautiful car. Hard to believe that this is essentially the same underneath as the hideous wing clad Fusions that Ford raced in 2007, the first year of the "Car of Tomorrow" program. Yes, Ford's Aston Martin inspired Fusion is both a gorgeous road car and a gorgeous race car, and the new champion's dark blue livery accents it well.

Unique to the Ford are three dimensional bars in the main grille (though, in plate track trim like the car above, the real grille actually sits in between the two decaled grille sections, to prevent extended bump drafting) and the flat black B pillar intended to give the visual of a pillarless coupe design, much like the production Fusion sedan. Why the production sedan does this I'm honestly not sure, but it works quite well from a visual perpsective on the race car.

Penske Racing

CHASSIS: Penske Racing
ENGINE: Roush-Yates Racing

2 - Brad Keselowski 

2012 Sprint Cup Series champion

Last Year's Championship Finish: 1st - Last Year's Points: 2400 - Chase Appearances: 2 - Career Wins: 9 - Career Poles: 2 - Crew Chief: Paul Wolfe - Previous Teams: Phoenix Racing (2009, 1 win), Hendrick Motorsports (2009) - National Development Series Highlights: 2010 Nationwide Series champion (Penske Racing), 20 Nationwide Series wins, 13 Nationwide Series poles, 1 Truck Series pole

Team Rating - 5, Car Rating - 4, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 5

22 - Joey Logano 

Last Year's Championship Finish: 17th - Last Year's Points: 965 - Chase Appearances: 0 - Best Championship Finish: 16th (2010) - Career Wins: 2 - Career Poles: 5 - Crew Chief: Todd Gordon - Previous Teams: Joe Gibbs Racing (2008-2012, 2 wins) - National Development Series Highlights: 18 Nationwide Series wins, 22 Nationwide Series poles - Other Career Highlights: 2007 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion

Team Rating - 4, Car Rating - 4, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 3

Roush-Fenway Racing:

CHASSIS: Roush-Fenway Racing
ENGINE: Roush-Yates Racing

16 - Greg Biffle

Last Year's Championship Finish: 5th - Last Year's Points: 2332 - Chase Appearances: 5 - Career Wins: 18 - Best Championship Finish: 2nd (2005) - Career Poles: 12 - Crew Chief: Matt Puccia - National Development Series Highlights: 2002 Nationwide Series champion, 20 Nationwide Series wins, 14 Nationwide Series poles, 2000 Truck Series champion, 16 Truck Series wins, 12 Truck Series poles

Team Rating - 4, Car Rating - 3, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 4

17 - Ricky Stenhouse, Jr

Last Year's Championship Finish (Nationwide Series): 1st - Chase Appearances: 0 - Career Wins: 0 - Career Poles: 0 - Crew Chief: Scott Graves - National Development Series Highlights: 2011 Nationwide Series champion, 2012 Nationwide Series champion, 8 Nationwide Series wins, 8 Nationwide Series poles

Team Rating - 3, Car Rating - 3, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 2

99 - Carl Edwards

Last Year's Championship Finish: 15th - Last Year's Points: 1030 - Chase Appearances: 6 - Best Career Championship Finish: T1st (2nd via tiebreaker, 2011) - Career Wins: 19 - Career Poles: 11 - Crew Chief: Jimmy Fennig - National Development Series Highlights: 2007 Nationwide Series champion, 38 Nationwide Series wins, 27 Nationwide Series poles, 6 Truck Series wins, 14 Truck Series poles

Team Rating - 4, Car Rating - 3, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 4

Richard Petty Motorsports:

CHASSIS: Roush-Fenway Racing
ENGINE: Roush-Yates Racing

9 - Marcos Ambrose

Last Year's Championship Finish: 18th - Last Year's Points: 950 - Chase Appearances: 0 - Best Career Championship Finish: 18th (2008, 2012) - Career Wins: 2 - Career Poles: 2 - Crew Chief: Drew Blickensderfer - Previous Teams: JTG Daughery Racing (2008-2010) - National Development Series Highlights: 4 Nationwide Series wins, 4 Nationwide Series poles, 1 Truck Series pole - Other Career Highlights: 2003 Australian V8 Supercars champion (Stone Brothers Racing), 2004 Australian V8 Supercars champion (Stone Brothers Racing), 28 Australian V8 Supercars wins

Team Rating - 3, Car Rating - 3, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 4

43 - Aric Almirola

Last Year's Championship Finish: 20th - Last Year's Points: 868 - Chase Appearances: 0 - Best Career Championship Finish: 20th (2012) - Career Wins: 0 - Career Poles: 1 - Crew Chief: Todd Parrott - Previous Teams: Dale Earnhardt, Inc (2007-2009, part time) - National Development Series Highlights: 1 Nationwide Series win, 5 Nationwide Series poles, 2 Truck Series wins

Team Rating - 3, Car Rating - 3, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 3

Wood Brothers Racing:

CHASSIS: Roush-Fenway Racing
ENGINE: Roush-Yates Racing

21 - Trevor Bayne

Scheduled Races: 16 - Last Year's Championship Finish: N/A (didn't run for a championship in any series) - Chase Appearances: 0 - Career Wins: 1 - Career Poles: 0 - Crew Chief: Donnie Wingo -  National Development Series Highlights: 1 Nationwide Series win, 5 Nationwide Series poles

Team Rating - 3, Car Rating - 3, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 3

Germain Racing:

CHASSIS: Germain Racing
ENGINE: Roush-Yates Racing

13 - Casey Mears 

Last Year's Championship Finish: 29th - Last Year's Points: 612 - Chase Appearances: 0 - Career Wins: 1 - Career Poles: 3 - Crew Chief: Bootie Barker - Previous Teams: Chip Ganassi Racing (2003-2006), Hendrick Motorsports (2007-2008), Richard Childress Racing (2009), Red Bull Racing (2010), Tommy Baldwin Racing (2010) - National Development Series Highlights: 1 Nationwide Series win, 4 Nationwide Series poles

Team Rating - 2, Car Rating - 1, Engine Rating - 3, Driver Rating - 2, 

Chevrolet powered teams - 

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesS

Well it sure isn't as pretty as the Ford, but Chevrolet's Generation 6 NASCAR racer is the most important of all because it represents a road car brought to the US solely to be tied in with a race car. The car in question is the 2014 Chevrolet SS, a V8 only version of the Holden Commondore that is to be marketed solely as a road going companion to the company's NASCAR racer.

In other words, this car is the reason you can go out and buy a G8 again, but this time it's got a Chevrolet badge and it's here to stay.

Unique to the Chevrolet SS is a small, non functional side vent behind the front fenders on each side of the car.

Hendrick Motorsports:

CHASSIS: Hendrick Motorsports
ENGINE: Hendrick Motorsports

5 - Kasey Kahne

Last Year's Championship Finish: 4th - Last Year's Points: 2345 - Chase Appearances: 3 - Career Wins: 14 - Career Poles: 26 - Best Championship Finish: 4th (2012) - Crew Chief: Kenny Francis - Past Teams: Evernham Motorsports (2004-2008, 9 wins), Richard Petty Motorsports (2009-2010, 2 wins), Red Bull Racing (2010-2011, 1 win) - National Development Series Highlights: 7 Nationwide Series wins, 9 Nationwide Series poles, 4 Truck Series wins (5 starts)

Team Rating - 4, Car Rating -5 , Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 4

24 - Jeff Gordon

1995 Sprint Cup Champion

1997 Sprint Cup Champion

1998 Sprint Cup Champion

2001 Sprint Cup Champion

Last Year's Championship Finish: 10th - Last Year's Points: 2303 (docked 25 points) - Chase Appearances: 7 (all but 2005) - Career Wins: 87 (3rd most wins, al time)- Career Poles: 72 - Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson - National Development Series Highlights: 5 Nationwide Series wins, 12 Nationwide Series poles

Team Rating - 4 Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 4

48 - Jimmie Johnson

2006 Sprint Cup Champion

2007 Sprint Cup Champion

2008 Sprint Cup Champion

2009 Sprint Cup Champion

2010 Sprint Cup Champion

Last Year's Championship Finish: 3rd - Last Year's Points: 2360 - Chase Appearances: 8 (all since 2003 inception) - Career Wins: 60 - Career Poles: 29 - Worst Championship Finish: 6th (2012) - Crew Chief: Chad Knaus - National Development Series Highlights: 1 Nationwide Series win, 2 Nationwide Series poles

Team Rating - 5, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 5

88 - Dale Earnhardt, Jr

Last Year's Championship Finish: 12th (missed two races in the chase) - Last Year's Points: 2245 - Chase Appearances: 5 - Career Wins: 19 - Career Poles: 11 - Best Championship Finish: 3rd (2003) - Crew Chief: Steve Letarte - Past Teams: Dale Earnhardt, Inc (1999-2007, 17 wins) - National Development Series Highlights: 1998 Nationwide Series champion, 1999 Nationwide Series champion, 23 Nationwide Series wins, 10 Nationwide Series poles

Team Rating - 5, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 4

Stewart-Haas Racing

CHASSIS: Hendrick Motorsports
ENGINE: Hendrick Motorsports

10 - Danica Patrick

Last Year's Championship Finish: 10th (Nationwide Series) - Last Year's Points: N/A - Chase Appearances: 0 - Career Wins: 0 - Career Poles: 0 - Crew Chief: Tony Gibson  - National Development Series Highlights: 1 Nationwide Series pole - Other Career Highlights: 1 IndyCar Series win

Team Rating - 3, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 2

14 - Tony Stewart

2003 Sprint Cup Series Champion

2005 Sprint Cup Series Champion

2011 Sprint Cup Series Champion

Last Year's Championship Finish: 9th - Last Year's Points: 2311 - Chase Appearances: 8 - Career Wins: 47 - Career Poles: 14 - Crew Chief: Steve Addington - Previous Teams: Joe Gibbs Racing (1999-2008, 33 wins, 2 championships) - National Development Series Highlights: 10 Nationwide Series wins, 6 Nationwide Series poles, 2 Truck Series wins - Other Career Highlights: 1997 IndyCar Series champion 

Team Rating - 4, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 5

39 - Ryan Newman

Last Year's Championship Finish: 14th - Last Year's Points: 1051 - Chase Appearances: 4 - Best Career Championship Finish: 6th (2002, 2003, 2005) - Career Wins: 16 - Career Poles: 49 - Crew Chief: Matt Borland - Previous Teams: Penske Racing (2000-2008, 13 wins) - National Development Series Highlights: 7 Nationwide Series wins, 12 Nationwide Series poles, 1 Truck Series win, 1 Truck Series pole

Team Rating - 3, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 3

Richard Childress Racing

CHASSIS: Richard Childress Racing
ENGINE: Earnhardt-Childress Racing

27 - Paul Menard

Last Year's Championship Finish: 16th - Last Year's Points: 1006 - Chase Appearances: 0 - Best Career Championship Finish: 16th (2012) - Career Wins: 1 - Career Poles: 1 - Crew Chief: Slugger Labbe - Previous Teams: Dale Earnhardt, Inc (2004-2008), Yates Racing (2009), Richard Petty Motorsports (2010) - National Development Series Highlights: 1 Nationwide Series win, 5 Nationwide Series poles

Team Rating - 3, Car Rating - 4, Engine Rating - 3, Driver Rating - 2

29 - Kevin Harvick

Last Year's Championship Finish: 8th - Last Year's Points: 2331 - Chase Appearances: 5 - Best Career Championship Finish: 3rd (2010, 2011) - Career Wins: 19 - Career Poles: 5 - Crew Chief: Gil Martin - National Development Series Highlights: 39 Nationwide Series wins, 24 Nationwide Series poles, 14 Truck Series wins, 4 Truck Series poles

Team Rating - 4, Car Rating - 4, Engine Rating - 3, Driver Rating - 4

31 - Jeff Burton

Last Year's Championship Finish: 19th - Last Year's Points: 883 - Chase Appearances: 4 - Best Career Championship Finish: 3rd (2000) - Career Wins: 21 - Career Poles: 6 - Crew Chief: Luke Lambert - Previous Teams: Stavola Brothers Racing (1994-1995), Roush-Fenway Racing (1996-2004, 17 wins) - National Development Series Highlights: 27 Nationwide Series wins, 11 Nationwide Series poles

Team Rating - 4, Car Rating - 4, Engine Rating - 3, Driver Rating - 3

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing w/ Felix Sabates:

CHASSIS: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing w/ Felix Sabates
ENGINE: Hendrick Motorsports

1 - Jamie McMurray

Last Year's Championship Finish: 21st - Last Year's Points: 868 - Chase Appearances: 0 - Best Career Championship Finish: 11th (2004) - Career Wins: 6 - Career Poles: 8 - Crew Chief: Kevin Manion - Previous Teams: Ganassi Racing (2002-2005, 1 win), Roush-Fenway Racing (2006-2009, 2 wins) - National Development Series Highlights: 8 Nationwide Series wins, 3 Nationwide Series poles, 1 Truck Series win, 3 Truck Series poles

Team Rating - 2, Car Rating - 2, Engine Rating - 3, Driver Rating - 4

42 - Juan Pablo Montoya

Last Year's Championship Finish: 22nd - Last Year's Points: 810 - Chase Appearances: 1 - Best Career Championship Finish: 8th (2009) - Career Wins: 2 - Career Poles: 9 - Crew Chief: Chris Heroy - National Development Series Highlights: 1 Nationwide Series win, 5 Nationwide Series poles, 2 Truck Series wins - Other Career Highlights: 7 Formula 1 wins, 13 Formula 1 poles, 3 time Rolex 24 at Daytona champion, 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner

Team Rating - 2, Car Rating - 2, Engine Rating - 3, Driver Rating - 2

Furniture Row Racing:

CHASSIS: Richard Childress Racing
ENGINE: Earnhardt-Childress Racing

78 - Kurt Busch

2004 Sprint Cup Series champion

Last Year's Championship Finish: 25th - Last Year's Points: 735 - Chase Appearances: 6 - Career Wins: 24 - Career Poles: 15 - Crew Chief: Todd Parrott - Previous Teams: Roush-Fenway Racing (2000-2005, 14 wins, 1 championship), Penske Racing (2006-2011, 10 wins), Phoenix Racing (2012) - National Development Series Highlights: 5 Nationwide Series wins, 3 Nationwide Series poles, 4 Truck Series wins, 4 Truck Series poles

Team Rating - 2, Car Rating - 4, Engine Rating - 3, Driver Rating - 3, 

Toyota powered teams - 

Motorsport Previews: 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series


It's a decently good looking car, don't get me wrong, but it's obvious that the Camry isn't nearly as pretty as the SS or the Fusion. Still, considering the base car they had to work with, the end result is at least somewhat neat looking.

Unique to the Camry is a physical, three dimensional badge in the front. The Ford and Chevrolet badges are both just decals.

Michael Waltrip Racing:

CHASSIS: Michael Waltrip Racing
ENGINE: Toyota Racing Development

15 - Clint Bowyer

Last Year's Championship Finish: 2nd - Last Year's Points: 2361 - Chase Appearances: 4 - Best Career Championship Finish: 2nd (2012)  - Career Wins: 8 - Career Poles: 2 - Crew Chief: Brian Pattie - Previous Teams: Richard Childress Racing (2006-2011, 5 wins) - National Development Series Highlights: 2008 Nationwide Series championship, 8 Nationwide Series wins, 9 Nationwide Series poles, 3 Truck Series wins, 3 Truck Series poles

Team Rating - 5, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 5

55 - Mark Martin (24 races)
55 - Brian Vickers (9 races)
55 - 
Michael Waltrip (3 races) 

Team Rating - 5, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 5 (Martin), 3 (Vickers), 3 (Waltrip)

56 - Martin Truex, Jr.

Last Year's Championship Finish: 11th - Last Year's Points: 2299 - Chase Appearances: 2 - Best Career Championship Finish: 11th (2007, 2012) - Career Wins: 1 - Career Poles: 7 - Crew Chief: Chad Johnston - Previous Teams: Dale Earnhardt, Inc (2004-2009, 1 win) - National Development Series Highlights: 2004 Nationwide Series champoinship, 2004 Nationwide Series championship, 13 Nationwide Series wins, 10 Nationwide Series poles

Team Rating - 3, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 3

Joe Gibbs Racing:

CHASSIS: Joe Gibbs Racing
ENGINE: Toyota Racing Development

11 - Denny Hamlin

Last Year's Championship Finish: 6th - Last Year's Points: 2329 - Chase Appearances: 7 (Every season of career) - Best Career Championship Finish: 2nd (2010) - Career Wins: 22 - Career Poles: 11 - Crew Chief: Darian Grubb - National Development Series Highlights: 11 Nationwide Series win, 16 Nationwide Series poles, 2 Truck Series wins

Team Rating - 5, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 5

18 - Kyle Busch

Last Year's Championship Finish: 13th - Last Year's Points: 1133 - Chase Appearances: 5 - Best Career Championship Finish: 5th (2007) - Career Wins: 24 - Career Poles: 10 - Crew Chief: Dave Rodgers - Previous Teams: Hendrick Motorsports (2004-2007, 4 wins) - National Development Series Highlights: 2009 Nationwide Series champion, 51 Nationwide Series win, 26 Nationwide Series poles, 30 Truck Series wins, 12 Truck Series poles

Team Rating - 4, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 5

20 - Matt Kenseth

2003 Sprint Cup Series champion

Last Year's Championship Finish: 7th - Last Year's Points: 2324 - Chase Appearances: 0 - Career Wins: 24 - Career Poles: 8 - Crew Chief: Jason Ratcliff - Previous Teams: Roush-Fenway Racing (24 wins, 1 championship) - National Development Series Highlights: 26 Nationwide Series wins, 16 Nationwide Series poles

Team rating - 4, Car Rating - 5, Engine Rating - 4, Driver Rating - 5

The Tracks - 

Daytona International Speedway - 3 Races - (2 points paying)

Track Type: Super Speedway - Size: 2.5 Miles - Banking: Very High - Last Repaved: 2011 - Last Year's Winners: Kyle Busch (Sprint Unlimited), Matt Kenseth (Daytona 500), Tony Stewart (summer)

Phoenix International Raceway - 2 Races

Track Type: Intermediate Short Track - Size: 1.1 Miles - Banking: Low-Mid (progressive) - Last Repaved: 2012 - Last Year's Winners: Denny Hamlin (spring), Kevin Harvick (fall)

Las Vegas Motor Speedway - 1 Race

Track Type: "Cookie Cutter" Intermediate - Size: 1.5 Miles - Banking: Mid-High (Progressive) - Last Repaved: 2003 - Last Year's Winner: Tony Stewart

Bristol Motor Speedway - 2 Races

Track Type: True Short Track - Size: 0.5 Miles - Banking: Very High - Last Repaved: 2008 (reconfigured to remove progressive banking in 2012) - Last Year's Winners: Brad Keselowski (spring), Denny Hamlin (fall)

Auto Club Speedway (Fontana) - 1 Race 

Track Type: Traditional Intermediate - Size: 2.0 Miles - Banking: Low - Last Repaved: 1999 - Last Year's Winner: Tony Stewart

Martinsville Speedway - 2 Races
Track Type: True Short Track - Size: 0.5 Miles - Banking: Very Low - Last Repaved: 1985 - Last Year's Winners: Ryan Newman (spring), Jimmie Johnson (fall)

Texas Motor Speedway - 2 Races

Track Type: "Cookie Cutter" Intermediate - Size: 1.5 Miles - Banking: Mid - Last Repaved: 2002 - Last Year's Winners: Greg Biffle (spring), Jimmie Johnson (Fall)

Kansas Speedway - 2 Races

Track Type: "Cookie Cutter" Intermediate - Size: 1.5 Miles - Banking: Mid-High (progressive) - Last repaved: 2012 - Last Year's Winners: Denny Hamlin (spring), Matt Kenseth (fall)

Talladega Super Speedway - 2 Races*

Track Type: Super Speedway - Size: 2.6 Miles - Banking: Very High - Last Repaved: 1990 - Last Year's Winners: Brad Keselowski (spring), Matt Kenseth (fall)

Richmond International Raceway - 2 Races

Track Type: Intermediate Short Track - Size: 0.75 Miles - Banking: Mid - Last Repaved: 1995 - Last Year's Winners: Kyle Busch (spring), Clint Bowyer (fall) 

Darlington Raceway - 1 Race

Track Type: Traditional Intermediate - Size: 1.33 Miles - Banking: Low - Last Repaved: 2004 - Last Year's Winner: Jimmie Johnson

Charlotte Motor Speedway - 3 Races (2 points paying)

Track Type: "Cookie Cutter" Intermediate - Size: 1.5 Miles - Banking: Mid - Last Repaved: 2006 - Last Year's Winners: Jimmie Johnson (All Star Race), Kasey Kahne (World 600), Clint Bowyer (fall)

Dover International Speedway - 2 Races

Track Type: Intermediate Short Track - Size: 1 Mile - Banking: High - Last Repaved: 1985 - Last Year's Winners: Jimmie Johnson (spring), Brad Keselowski (fall)

Pocono Motor Speedway - 2 Races

Track Type: Flat Speedway - Size: 2.5 Miles - Banking: Very Low-Mid (varies by corner) - Last Repaved: 2012 - Last Year's Winners: Joey Logano (spring), Jeff Gordon (fall)

Michigan International Speedway - 2 Races

Track Type: True Intermediate - Size: 2 Miles - Banking: Low - Last Repaved: 2012 - Last Year's Winners: Dale Earnhardt, Jr (spring), Greg Biffle (fall)

race Sonoma - 1 Race

Track Type: Natural Road Course - Size: 1.9 Miles - Corners: 12 - Last Year's Winner: Clint Bowyer

Kentucky Speedway - 1 Race

Track Type: "Cookie Cutter" Intermediate - Size: 1.5 Miles - Banking: Mid - Last Repaved: 2000 - Last Year's Winner:  Brad Keselowski

New Hampshire Motor Speedway - 2 Races

Track Type: Intermediate Short Track - Size: 1 Mile - Banking: Very Low - Last Repaved: 1990 - Last Year's Winners: Kasey Kahne (spring), Denny Hamlin (fall)

Indianapolis Motor Speedway - 1 Race

Track Type: Flat Intermediate - Size: 2.5 Miles - Banking: Very Low - Last Repaved: 1964 - Last Year's Winner: Jimmie Johnson

Watkins Glen International Raceway - 1 Race

Track Type: Natural Terrain Road Course - Size: 2.4 Miles - Corners: 8 - Last Year's Winner: Marcos Ambrose

Atlanta Motor Speedway - 1 Race

Track Type: "Cookie Cutter" Intermediate - Size: 1.5 Miles - Banking: Mid - Last Repaved: 1995 - Last Year's Winner: Denny Hamlin

Chicagoland Raceway - 1 Race

Track Type: "Cookie Cutter" Intermediate - Size: 1.5 Miles - Banking: Mid - Built: 2001 (never repaved) - Last Year's Winner: Brad Keselowski

Homestead Motor Speedway - 1 Race

Track Type: True Intermediate - Size: 1.5 Miles - Banking: Mid-High (Progressive) - Repaved: 2006 - Last Year's Winner: Jeff Gordon