As the start of the 2013 season approaches, fans, drivers and all others within the sport have gotten a taste of the new cars that’ll be racing in the Sprint Cup Series this year, dubbed the “Gen-6” cars.

“We have been working on this car for nearly two years and we have been at the track on and off for well over a year in different stages and forms and configurations of the car,” NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said. “Because of the depth of everybody, throughout our entire industry, we were able to take these things and put a long lead time in them and develop a better product.”

Simply put, these cars look like, well  - racecars! The boxy look of the Car of Tomorrow has come and gone, replaced by these sleek and sporty-looking versions.

During the COT era, it would have probably taken some arm-twisting to get fans to want to buy a car off of a showroom floor with the appearance of the COT. That is not the case now. The Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota models look exactly like something your casual race fan could be driving to and from the race, if they wanted to.

“Everybody is super excited about this race car and what it brings to our sport and the identity that it brings back to the passenger cars you see on the roads,” Clint Bowyer said.  

As for the cars themselves, they are lighter by about 160 pounds and a forward roof and center roof bar have been added to the roll cage, strengthening the roof of the cars. Another safety feature comes within the roof flaps, having been enlarged to reduce the chances of cars going airborne.

A taller rear spoiler is expected to positively impact downforce, making cars less aero sensitive than in the past. That, combined with a new tire designed by Goodyear specifically for the Gen-6 car, has drawn excited reviews from drivers.

“The car has really awesome potential,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “The cars that you see in the garage; you’ll stand there and see Fords and Toyotas and Chevrolets driving by. It’s great because everything looks different, everything is instantly recognizable.”

The cars are not the only new factor for NASCAR as it heads into the 2013 season. Changes are afoot for drivers as well.

Brad Keselowski may as well cast aside the underdog label on the heels of last season's championship. Without question, the No. 2 team will have a proverbial bulls-eye on its back all year long, and time will tell how able Keselowski and his team will be to stand up to the pressure.

For drivers such as Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne, the challenge is to match and exceed breakout seasons from 2012 when each driver finished the season in the top- five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings.

Two drivers looking to put 2012 behind them are Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. Two of the biggest names in racing, both drivers failed to qualify for the Chase of the Championship a year ago and won only one race combined.

“I couldn’t be looking forward to it more,” Edwards said. “I think it will be an exciting year for me. I would like to put last year out of my memory and not think about it too much. Not in the last few years have I been this excited to go racing. I think it is probably because my offseason has been a little longer than most. I didn’t go to Vegas [for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week] so I have been ready to go.”

Ready to go.

That pretty much sums up the sentiments of everyone connected to NASCAR these days!