In 2007 the fifth generation of Sprint Cup Series cars was introduced into competition and is better known as the Car of Tomorrow or COT. The car took a lot of criticism over the six years that it was on NASCAR tracks from both drivers and fans but one thing is for certain and that is the fact that the COT vastly improved the safety of the machines the drivers strapped themselves into.
The COT did not look very cool and it did not create the best on-track racing for most of the six years but it did keep almost every driver safe. In 2013 the "Generation 6" car will hit the track with a better manufacturer identity to it but it will still have all of the safety improvements that were in the COT. Some of the major improvements that the Car of Tomorrow ushered in that will still be implemented in the Gen 6 car are a higher and wider roll cage to give the driver more room, a seat positioned more toward the center of the vehicle, double frame rails and plated door bars on the left side, a more substantial floorboard, an enclosed driveshaft tunnel, and protective foam outside the door bars.
The COT era was largely dominated by Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus at Hendrick Motorsports. They won the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship which was the last season with the fourth generation car. Then he went onto win four more championships in a row in the first four seasons with the COT to mark his name in the history books with five straight championships. Tony Stewart was able to dethrone him in 2011 and Brad Keselowski in 2012, the last two seasons of the COT, but Johnson was a major factor in both of those seasons as well.
One over-arching theme of the Car of Tomorrow seemed to be that passing was difficult especially at the front of the field. The term "clean air" was used way too much the past six seasons by announcers, drivers, and crew chiefs. Pit strategy to get track position and clean air determined who would win more often than the team that had the best car on that day. Time will tell if that trend will change with the Gen 6 cars but fans and drivers hope so.
It will be exciting and interesting to see how the Gen 6 car races in 2013 and it will also be interesting to see if one driver and team can seem to figure the car out before the rest and dominate like Johnson and the No. 48 team did with the COT.
Most drivers and fans are glad the COT is gone but they can all be thankful for the COT for the safety improvements that the car helped usher into the sport.
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