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January 24. 2013 10:32PM

NH's Stoddard anxious to go with 'Gen 6' car

Another day closer to the Daytona 500.

At Frank Stoddard's garage in Mooresville, N.C., the No. 32 Ford is finally off the lift and ready for the first paint job of the season. The North Haverhill native and long-time NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chief is almost ready to unveil the new "Generation 6" stock car, to be driven by Terry Labonte at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 24.

At the end of last season, NASCAR Sprint Cup retired the "Car of Tomorrow" - a boxier car with a higher center of gravity - that teams had been racing since 2007. Owners, crew chiefs and drivers raised a proverbial toast when that version was put out to pasture.

"I don't think anyone really liked it. It was awful. It was big and boxy. The (detached) wing was a horrific idea. The car didn't do much of anything very well," said Stoddard, owner of FAS Lane Racing, which is sponsored by U.S. Chrome, Federated Auto Parts and C & J Energy Sources.

The "Gen 6" looks more like a souped-up car that was driven out of the show room. Stoddard's No. 32 has the look of a Ford Fusion. The Toyota car more closely resembles the Camry this season. The Chevrolet SS also has the look of a high-performance sedan.

During preseason testing, all three models have turned competitive laps. That makes a lot of people happy.

"We're such a sponsor-driven sport and always have been. There's an old saying, 'Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.' Fans have always been loyal to manufacturers, and it's good to see NASCAR getting back to that type of branding," said Jerry Gappens, president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Gappens spent the week at the 2013 Sprint Media Tour, headquartered at Charlotte Motor Speedway. No matter where he went, the big story was the new Gen-6 racing machine.

"For whatever reason, drivers never really liked the old version," said Gappens

It was a productive week for Gappens, who announced a five-year contract extension with Osram Sylvania for the track's fall Cup race. The renewal keeps the Sylvania 300 name on the Sprint Cup circuit through 2017. The July race at Loudon, formerly known as the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, has a vacancy for title sponsor. Tickets for both Sprint Cup Series events at NHMS can be purchased by calling 783-4931 or by visiting nhms.com.

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