The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is 13 races old and we now have a fairly clear picture as to which manufacturer has an edge on the competition. There is a great disparity between all three makes which isn’t surprising considering that this is a brand new car. Joe Gibbs Racing is by far the best team winning five races this year and dominating many more. TRD powered cars have won eight poles as well and were under the hood for all those JGR victories. They are fast but maybe a little too fast. They are pushing the limits of their engines which are failing more than any other manufacturer. They had at least three other races this year in the bag until engine issues killed their chances. There is an intense feeling of trepidation throughout the Toyota camp even if they don’t show it because they can’t afford to be giving valuable championship points away like this and they know it.
Part of the reason why Joe Gibbs switched to TRD in 2012 is because their own engines were having reliability problems and they hoped to bolster their program with the addition of TRD power. Well, they are right back to where they were except this time; they are relying on someone else to fix the issues. TRD is plenty capable of fixing this problem though and I believe they will but the clock is ticking and they don’t have very much time. A quick fix that will be implemented immediately is to scale back the horsepower on their cars in an effort to improve reliability. Its common sense really; be easier on the engine components and they are more likely to last the entire event. They won’t be dominating every single race now but a top 10 and a few wins is a lot better than a few wins and a couple 40th’s.
We don’t even know if this will eradicate the issue which has mostly been valve train related; considered the most fragile part of the engine to most. We saw Matt Kenseth not even make it 200 miles before he lost the engine at Dover and TRD’s thinking is that less strain on the parts will help them endure the entire race distance. Cup motors are built to last around 800 miles so for these engines to not even make it a quarter of the way to that amount is a little concerning. If they can get past these issues, then not much will be able to stop their powerful fleet of cars in 2013.
Ford hasn’t had very many engine problems this year, what they are lacking is raw speed. They would like to adjust the front aerodynamics of their cars but I doubt NASCAR will let that happen mid-season. I said it back in Daytona that I felt the 3D “grills” would be a disadvantage to the Ford team but they aren’t pin-pointing that as the main issue so don’t quote me on that. They have just two wins this year compared to Toyota’s five and Chevy’s six. Carl Edwards won Ford their first race in the Gen-6 back in Phoenix while the underdogs at Front-Row Motorsports put their Ford Fusion’s 1-2 at Talladega. The Ford’s seem to run so-so at the 1.5 mile and 2 mile tracks which they have historically dominated in the past.
They are fast at shorter, less aerodynamic dependent venues which is very uncharacteristic for that group. In the manufacturer standings, they trail Toyota by 20pts and Chevy by 28 which is a fairly large margin. Penske Racing and even Germain Racing have shown consistent speed in the cars although they’ve also had a few dismal results. Richard Petty Motorsports and Roush-Fenway are the ones that are really having a tough time. Carl may be 2nd in points but that team as a whole hasn’t taken charge at all this year and really haven’t shown much strength. They’ve just been there for the most part. RPM’s Aric Almirola was really good earlier in the year but now he is beginning to fall off as well. This certainly isn’t Ford’s season and as they struggle to find their footing, Toyota and Chevrolet continue to gap them more and more every weekend.
Now I would talk about Chevy’s issues if they really had any. They came out of the gate winning the Daytona 500 in a Hendrick Motorsports 1-2 and all their teams have been solid this year. Toyota seems to have a little more speed than them but like I said earlier, their reliability is awful. Hendrick Motorsports and ECR have built very durable engines that have only failed twice during the season thus far. Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing have all been very strong. Drivers such as Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray and even Juan-Pablo Montoya who are usually around 15th-20th in points aren’t ruling out the possibility of a chase berth just yet. Stewart-Haas has struggled but that is of their own doing as they are finding it tough to adapt to the Gen-6. They either have ill-handling racecars or find themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time. That being said, Tony Stewart just won at Dover so it’s not all doom and gloom for that organization.
Chevrolet takes racing more seriously than most seeing that they put so much time and effort into their program. They were the last to unveil their Gen-6 car and were very secretive when testing last year. Chevy exemplifies what is reachable when you pour your heart and soul into something. The record holding 36-time NASCAR Sprint Cup manufacturer champions are looking to win their 11th straight in 2013 and it’s not just NASCAR where they rise above their competition. They are kicking Honda’s tail for the most part in Indycar, Corvette Racing is the most successful team in the history of Le Mans and Chevrolet Cruze has a stranglehold on World Touring Car. I’ll tell you what; I’d love to see General Motors try their hand at Formula 1 so we can see if they have what it takes against the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.
The reason why Chevy always seems to be the ones to beat in any form of racing is because of the passion and time they put into all their programs around the world. Toyota is catching up in NASCAR though and I think they are going to have one heck of a battle in 2013. Toyota has never won a driver or manufacturer title in Cup and it would give much more credence to their title hopes should they resolve their engine woes. You can be assured that if they don’t win it all, the car standing in their way when it’s all said and done will most likely feature a gold bow tie on the grill.