This weekend the Daytona 500 kick starts the 2013 NASCAR season and on a wider scale, the American motorsport year.
Every year a pack of more than 40 stock cars roar around the two and a half mile superspeedway on the Florida coast nose to tail, scraping the track’s concrete walls at speeds of more than 200mph. It may on paper just be round one of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series yet the glory and purse gained by triumphing means it’s more than the average oval race.
This year however, the pre-race hype for “The Great American Race” is being dominated by one huge story; Danica Patrick.
The more dedicated motorsport fans will already know the name, Patrick having had a good seven year career in the IndyCar series which contained a win. A win which made Patrick the first woman to win an open wheel motorsport race in a major series.
But it was only last week that Patrick became a worldwide sensation when she put her #10 GoDaddy.com car on pole position for the biggest NASCAR race of them all.
To some this is a sign of an arrival of a new household name, a figure who is poised to bring huge new exposure to the sport in general, while to others it means nothing until the whole 40 car grid sets off on the first lap of the race itself.
I think we can safely predict which version the NASCAR executives would prefer to occur. A successful female driver who just so happens to be a fine looking one that opens the gates to millions of new female viewers to their sport and therefore massive new revenue streams.
I could try and predict the happenings of the race but that would most likely be a prime example of an exercise in futility as NASCAR for 2013 is all change.
There is indeed no formbook for the new NASCAR season ahead as there is a completely new car for the drivers to adjust to. The Generation 6 NASCAR has been designed with some key features in mind.
The first is purely visual, with the cars being designed to look more like the road-going cars that the participating manufacturers would like their racing success to sell. It’s the changes made for the second aim that are much more exciting for the motorsport fan however.
Lighter, with reduced aero dependency and grippier tyres have been combined to create cars with better handling in the hope of increasing wheel to wheel racing. Promisingly, the drivers have been giving rave reviews to the American media.
A new NASCAR, and maybe a new superstar. The 2013 edition of the Daytona 500 could the dawn of a new age of American stock car racing.