NASCAR gets our engines revved up no matter what. Add beautiful and talented drivers like Beccy Gordon, Maryeve Dufault and Jamie Little to the mix and you're in for one hot season. While NASCAR may still be thought of as a man's sport, women are influencing NASCAR now more than ever. From female drivers and reporters to NASCAR wives and girlfriends, women at the front of the pack.
10. Maryeve Dufault
The perfect blend of model and driver, Maryeve Dufault comes to NASCAR from the racing circuits of Canada. Being a native of Quebec, Dufault can not only pass by other drivers on the track, but taunt them in French while she does it! Regularly listed as one of the best female drivers today, her talents range from being a Hollywood stunt double to doing precision driving for some of the top car manufacturers in the world.
9. Beccy Gordon
Daughter of the Gordon off-road racing dynasty that includes such icons as Huntley Gordon, "Baja Bob" Gordon and Robby Gordon, Beccy Gordon is as close to racing royalty as you can get. She also has the distinction of having being the youngest player ever to play on the USA National Softball League. She went on to model for clients such as Ralph Lauren and Victoria's Secret. This racing princess has driving in her blood. Too bad IndyCar racer Ryan Hunter-Reay took her off the market in 2011.
8. Jamie Little
The only thing hotter than this stunning pit reporter is a tire fire. A frequent contributer to ESPN/ABC Jamie Little became known for her reporting on the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Series. Not only is she attractive, but Little is also smart. Her knowledge of the sport paid off in 2008 when she won the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Not just a pretty face, this beauty knows her way around a racetrack.
7. Chrissy Wallace
This NASCAR girl has racing in her blood. Daughter of celebrated driver Mike Wallace, Chrissy Wallace has gone so far as to follow in her dad's footsteps by winning the American Speed Association Late Model track championship at Lebanon/I-44 speedway in 2011 - a feat her father accomplished 21 years earlier. The blond bombshell is the first female to win that title.
6. Jennifer Jo Cobb
A girl so nice they named her twice! Jennifer Jo Cobb is taken care of business with her NASCAR team Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, LLC. A leader in the Camping World Truck Series, Cobb has also driven for the Nationwide Series. Her charity work is what sets her apart from the other women in NASCAR - with her Driven2Honor nonprofit she is supporting our nation's female veterans.
5. Jordan Fish
Denny Hamlin met his girlfriend Jordan Fish while she was dancing as a cheerleader for the Charlotte Bobcats. Now, several years and a daughter later, Fish has become the honorary head MILF of NASCAR. Fish's relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin began when he sponsored her competition in the Miss USA pageant as a representative from South Carolina - further evidence that southern girls can't be beat.
4. Ingrid Vandebosch
Jeff Gordon may be the current record holder for the most consecutive poles in the Sprint Cup Series, but his greatest accomplishment is definitely marrying Ingrid Vandebosch. The Belgian hottie is not only married to one of the greatest drivers the sport has ever seen, but is also a successful model and actress in her own right. On the side, she designs her own line of lingerie - which just might be the hottest job on the planet.
3. Jacquelyn Butler
The wife of driver Dave Ragan has the distinction of being one of the fastest wives in NASCAR, having won the 2011 Better Half Dash at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Another Southern belle to grace NASCAR fans with her presence, Jacquelyn Butler was introduced to racing at a young age by her babysitter. A diehard Jeff Gordon fan, she even dressed up as the racing legend one year for Halloween.
2. The Cope Twins
NASCAR's resident hot blond twins are Ashley and Amber Cope. While their appearances in the Nationwide Series may be few and far between, every time they do show up it is certainly a treat for audiences. Even the magazine Maxim took notice of these NASCAR girls, publishing a spread of the twosome.
1. Danica Patrick
The original queen of NASCAR, Danica Patrick has the looks and the skill to back it up. Her success started in the IndyCar Series with a win at the 2008 Indy Japan 300 and a third-place finish in the 2009 Indianapolis 500. Despite being the most successful female driver in American open-wheel racing, it wasn't until Patrick's provocative Go Daddy commercials aired that she became a household name. In 2012 she made the transition to NASCAR through appearances in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. A Wisconsin native, Patrick is the ultimate all-American girl next door with the power and talent to give the big boys a run for their money.
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Since NASCAR's inception in 1948, stock car racing has seen many developments in car speed, safety and design. Every so often, NASCAR rolls out a new line of upgrades that affect every car on the track. Currently, in the Sprint Cup Series (widely regarded as the "Major Leagues" of racing), there are only three models that drivers can choose from: Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion or Toyota Camry. Dubbed Generation 6 (or Gen 6 for short), these newest additions to the racing fleet come with some pretty serious upgrades compared to their pedestrian counterparts.
Putting the "stock" in "stock car"
The term "stock car" refers to a car that comes right off the production line with no upgrades. The original stock car races were meant to highlight the skills of the driver and not necessarily the power of the cars themselves. Therefore, drivers used factory-produced, commercially-available cars to even the playing field from an equipment perspective. However, over the years, this original intent was somewhat lost as the sport came under pressure to increase the cars' speed and safety.
Throughout the six generations of stock car upgrades there have been various departures from the models you would find on the showroom floor. Gen 2, a period that lasted from 1967-1980, is often lauded as featuring cars that most closely resemble the versions you would find on the street. This version of stock cars is epitomized by Richard Petty's Dodge Charger and David Pearson's Mercury Cougar, which seemed like the versions you could test drive at the dealership down the street.
Meanwhile, Gen 4 cars, which coincided with racing's largest jump in popularity from 1992-2006 resembled their stock counterparts the least. The manufacturer prototypes from this period were indistinguishable from one another and extremely sensitive to minor bumps from an aerodynamics perspective.
Gen 6, the newest iteration of racing cars, are going back to their stock roots. These cars are designed to look just like their commercially-available counterparts. Of course, these racing cars don't have any doors or headlights, but it is the body shape that really matters. Manufacturers want their cars to win as it brings a lot of good publicity to their brand. In order to make the cars as fast as possible, the key is to have the most aerodynamic shape. This cuts down on wind resistance, thus increasing mileage. By making race cars in the same body as production cars, manufacturers will have to produce a more aerodynamic commercial car in order to win. Hopefully this will translate to more aerodynamic, fuel-efficient cars for everyday drivers.
Gen 6 specs
There are a few standardized specs that will come on all Gen 6 cars. Engines will all be cast iron 358 cubic-inch V8 with aluminum cylinder heads, capable of producing a horsepower of 850 at 9000 rpm (quite an upgrade from the 170 - 260 horsepower range available in road cars). In addition, they all have a 4-speed transmission with an estimated top speed of around 200 mph. With such standardized performance specs, winning is becoming much more about the driver and not the car itself.
In many ways this may have been one of the goals of NASCAR as it designed this next generation vehicle. Last season saw a lot of the same cars dominating on so-called "cookie-cutter" tracks. The predictability of one car winning every time is a detriment to the overall entertainment value of the sport. The possibility of surprise wins and come-from-behind victories is what keeps people coming back and filling the stands. Driving a more standardized vehicle will lend itself to the possibility of more exciting races.
Of course, there is still going to be a lot of variations between models. Here is what you can look forward to:
Ford Fusion: Ford has been a major player in stock car racing since before World War II. Their 2013 car is polished off with parallel side lines, a tapered nose and a slightly boxier frame.
Chevrolet SS: The main design challenge for Chevrolet was the fact that their racing model was based on a road car that had yet to be released. Now that the 2014 Chevrolet SS is commercially available, it is easy to see the similarities in both cars' side vents and slender feel.
Toyota Camry: The Camry's angled side lines and signature wing-shaped front grill makes this model stand out from the rest.
Loyalty and competition
By differentiating the cars from one another, manufacturers are hoping to rekindle the kind of fierce brand loyalty that characterized NASCAR in the 1980s. By making their race offerings identifiable from the stands, each producer is attempting to create a real sense of tribal devotion to their company, all with an eye to sell more of their passenger models. However, don't expect to go to your local Chevrolet dealer and pick up a track-ready 2014 SS. The similarities between the road and track versions are really only skin-deep. While they may look similar from the outside, racing models differ from road cars in their safety features, such as tube-frames and driver restraints, and logistical considerations - no passenger seats in the race versions. With the latest generation of racing cars hitting the track, fans will have a lot more to look forward to.
If you were a NASCAR driver, which car would you be behind the wheel of?
After months of competition, the NASCAR season has entered the home stretch as the Chase for the Sprint Cup kicks off in just a few short days. Some of the biggest names in auto racing are poised to make a run at the title, and even some of the most casual NASCAR fans can appreciate what's on the line. Will last year's champion Tony Stewart be able to repeat? Or will veteran Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne come from behind to win? There's no way to be sure, but one thing's for certain - it will be quite a ride getting there.
Geico 400 in Chicago
Held at the Chicagoland Speedway, the Geico 400 kicks off the Chase for the Cup on September 16, and getting a head start on the competition certainly can't hurt. If you need any indication of how important is to get a win on the first race of the chase, you need look no further than last year. In 2011, Tony Stewart came away with the victory and went on to capture the Cup. Will he be able to do it again this year? He enters the chase in third place just three points behind leader Danny Hamlin, so it's a very real possibility.
Bank of America 500
Less than one month after the Geico 400, the Bank of America 500 comes to North Carolina. The race comes at about the halfway point in the Chase for the Cup, so by then we should have a better idea of who is poised to take the championship. Last year's winner Matt Kenseth will be back in play this year, as he enters the chase in eighth place.
The event is held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of the most famous venues in the sport. The iconic track dates back more than 50 years and since it can host approximately 140,000 spectators, it is one of the biggest sports arenas in the country.
Ford EcoBoost 400
It all comes down to this - the Ford EcoBoost 400 is the final race of the season for NASCAR drivers. Depending on what happens on the two months leading up to the race, whoever wins the EcoBoost 400 could very well win the Sprint Cup. That's exactly what happened in 2011, when Stewart captured the victory and the Cup all in one day.