By Jerry Bonkowski
Because the two examples I’m about to cite are nearly 50 years old, I don’t expect any Generation X’s, Y’s or Z’s to recognize much of what I’m about to say.
Heck, there may even be some Baby Boomers who have no idea what I’m talking about.
But bear with me, please. I’ll get to the NASCAR connection in a moment.
Being from Chicago, I literally grew up on a local soul-funk group that shot to national prominence in the early 1970s called Rufus with Chaka Khan (their beautiful lead singer).
Chaka and legendary artist Stevie Wonder co-wrote a song in 1974 called “Tell Me Something Good,” which proved to be Rufus’ largest hit.
And while the song was a funky love tome, one of the lyric lines immediately popped into my mind when I started writing this column, and which PRECISELY describes how I’m feeling about NASCAR’s Next Generation – a.k.a. Gen 7 – car after this past Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500:
“Tell me something good, tell me that you like it, yeah!”
And then, to show how weird the brain can be – or at least how weird MY brain can be at times (haha) – right after Chaka popped into my mind, so then did the near-immortal Life cereal TV commercial that ran from the early 70s through the mid-80s and is considered one of the most classic TV pitches ever made, with the unforgettable tagline:
“Hey Mikey, he likes it!”
The song and commercial both could – and should – be resurrected and updated today to describe the Next Gen car and how it performed, first a few weeks ago at the Busch Light Clash in Los Angeles, and then at Daytona.
I can’t say enough positive things about how the Next Gen car performed at the World Center of Racing. Sure, there were a few non-crash related mishaps – most notably with loose wheels – in the 500 that will be corrected, but I felt the racing action, the ability for cars to draft and move around the track at will and the way most (but not all) pit crews adapted to changes in the car was nothing short of excellent.
While NASCAR has introduced several new types of cars in the Cup Series over the last two-plus decades, none of those predecessors had the near-wholesale changes that the Gen 7 did.
We’re talking about a completely new body style, new aerodynamics, new wider wheels and tires, new one-lug hubs to replace five lug nuts for the first time ever in NASCAR history, smaller fuel cells (which meant more pit stops and greater pit strategy), an independent rear suspension and the built-in upgradability to one day be able to switch from a gas-powered internal combustion engine to electric power or a hybrid combination of the two (it’s coming, folks, perhaps sooner than you may think!).
And those changes are just for starters.
Even though there were a lot of naysayers who questioned what the Next Gen car would look like, how it would drive/race like and what it would bring to the sport in terms of hopefully attracting new fans, NASCAR’s new four-wheeler has so far passed all the tests and checked off all the necessary boxes it needed to with flying colors.
In a way, the only thing missing Sunday was U.S. Postal Service sponsorship on 500 winner Austin Cindric’s car because the rookie really delivered!
Admittedly, there are still several more trials the Next Gen car must go through, like this Sunday’s return for the first time in two years to super-fast and super-wide Auto Club Speedway, the high-banked short track (and temporary dirt track) at Bristol, the flat and uncomfortably tight track at Martinsville, the 1.5-mile tracks at places like Charlotte and Kansas, and let’s not forget the seven road course races that will be contested this year.
Each of those venues will obviously put different strains on the Next Gen car, but with what we’ve seen so far at Los Angeles and Daytona, I’m convinced that its reputation and what it will continue to bring to the sport will be nothing but exceptional.
Exceptionally good, that is.
Since I started this column with a song that many of you have likely never heard of, I’ll close with a line of song lyrics from a more modern times that maybe you have heard of – and which kind of puts a modern-day spin on the Next Gen car from none other than a NASCAR Cup team owner himself, namely, rapper Pitbull, and a little ditty called “I Feel Good!”
“I Feel Like I Hit The Lotto. I Don’t Know About You, But I Feel Good!”
Follow Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski