DAYTONA BEACH — With the debut of the Gen 6 car coming during Daytona Speedweeks, Thursday's media day became a chance for drivers to analyze the new machines and eulogize the much-scrutinized but much-improved Car of Tomorrow.
"It didn't go over well," two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip said of NASCAR's old machine. "It's kind of like a Volvo. They're boxy, but they're safe."
Some fans and drivers blasted the car of yesterday immediately after its 2007 launch for a boring design and the single-file racing it spawned. Last year's Sprint Cup Series champ, Brad Keselowski, reiterated that he didn't like the old car's looks. But that machine also made the sport safer and kept NASCAR fatality-free.
"That's what will be remembered," veteran driver Mark Martin said.
As for the new car, drivers said they're still learning its quirks. Some racers expect more excitement and more wrecks, such as the 12-car one Dale Earnhardt Jr. sparked in last month's practice.
"There's no forgiveness," Roush Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle said.
VISITING TAMPA: Clint Bowyer kicked off Speedweeks with a soggy trip to Tampa on Wednesday night. Last year's Cup series runnerup owns a dirt racing team and drove from Daytona to watch his drivers compete at East Bay Raceway Park.
When rain caused a four-hour delay, he got a room and grabbed dinner at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel before heading back to the track.
"I get back there, there wasn't three or four fans that left," Bowyer said. "The stands were jam-packed with fans. … It's a huge motorsports mecca, extravaganza down here the next couple weeks."
REMEMBERING NEWTOWN: NASCAR and Swan Racing unveiled a paint scheme to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting in December in Newtown, Conn. Waltrip's Toyota will sport a green ribbon on the hood and Newtown on the sides in honor of the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. The No. 26 represents the 20 children and six adults who were killed. Fans can donate $10 by texting "Newtown" to 80888.
FIGHT LIKE A MAN: With more than a few instances of road rage and temper tantrums last season, the subject was a hot topic on media day. Martin said the fights and outbursts aren't necessarily bad for the sport. However, he said he's not a fan of crashing cars and fighting on the track. He's old-school: keep it private and handle it like a man. "I would much rather handle things in the garage than on the racetrack," Martin said. "I think it needs to be handled, man-to-man, eye-to-eye. … It's disrespectful to tear these cars up. The fact that we don't have to fix them doesn't make it okay. We didn't do that when we had to fix them ourselves."
Retiring: James Hylton, 78, is retiring after 50 years in NASCAR. The driver from Inman, S.C., announced this is his final season. He has made 602 starts in the Cup series since his rookie season 1964. He won at Richmond in 1970 and at Talladega two years later. He will make his last Daytona start Saturday in the ARCA Lucas Oil 200.