5:35 PM EST, November 29, 2012
LAS VEGAS -- NASCAR moves toward the future in a sweet ride.
It rolled out the 2013 NASCAR Chevrolet SS race car Thursday morning in Las Vegas -- the perfect place for all things hip and cool.
The Chevy model looks very much like the street model that the Average Joe Six-Pack can buy in a showroom, and that's key for a sport that got away from its grass-roots brand. Fans once loved seeing their favorite drivers riding around Talladega and Martinsville in models similar to the ones that they drove their kids to school in on Monday morning.
Chevy's new model -- Ford and Toyota have already rolled out their new designs -- are a welcome return to that business model.
But there is more work to do.
It would be even cooler if the sport allowed its top drivers to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in those fancy new rides.
It's obvious that the gang from Furniture Row Racing isn't going to be able to keep up with the dominant empire from Hendrick Motorsports. But it would nice to see the natural order of competitive sports having a louder voice in determining winners and losers.
With limited testing on the 2013 models, it's impossible to predict how things will play out. But with every team running under mandated homogenous setups, it equals the playing field. Fans see that every week, as cars have very little separation.
Somewhere in NASCAR's future, it needs to figure out a way to tweak its side-by-side racing model to a less restrictive beast. That is the nature of sports.
"I think the definition of exciting, good racing has been kinda brainwashed for the last six or eight years," said three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. "That's what these teams work for -- to be better than everybody else. So to have everything wrangled back to where everybody is doing the same thing is kinda counter-productive."
The new cars are a necessary step in getting things revved up. Fans will be able to drop by their local showroom shortly after the 2013 NASCAR models are rolled out in Daytona during Speed Weeks.
"People are going to recognize this car when they go to a dealership, and that's pretty cool," four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon said. "I'm an owner, a dealer, a driver. I'm in all in. We're in Vegas. I'm all in."
So why not let it ride, baby? Let the best drivers duke it out. Let them be able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Don't make so many races come down to the infamous "green-white-checkered" finish.
"In theory to create equal cars and let it be about the people working on them is fantastic," five-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson said. "But all the people in the sport are good. It doesn't matter if they are in the garage or on the track driving. The days of being a couple of 10ths faster than someone and passing them just don't exist. You have to be a half-second faster than someone to be able to pass them. … I think we need to start looking at other areas."
Johnson expanded on his thought bubble, suggesting there are way to modify tracks as they are repaved.
"We need to start looking at the venues, and as we resurface these tracks, start creating tracks where we can pass," Johnson said. "Let's build progressive banking into these tracks and create other ideas. NASCAR has put a huge burden on the teams by changing these cars year after year. The argument's out if we made it any better."
We shall see come January.
The ride is sweet. It would be even sweeter if the best drivers can break away from Sunday's rush-hour congestion.
Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org He is a regular contributor on the Joel Greenberg Show weekdays 4-6pm on 810 AM Yahoo! Sports Radio Orlando.