After a lengthy wait -- and no small amount of chicanery -- NASCAR has a complete set of 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race cars.
Roughly 11 months after Ford introduced its 2013 Fusion at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Chevrolet unveiled the new SS model its teams will race in the Cup series next year.
On display in the Encore Theater at the Wynn were representative cars from the four primary Chevrolet teams: the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing SS, driven by Kevin Harvick; the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports SS, driven by Jimmie Johnson; the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing SS, driven by Tony Stewart; and the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing SS, driven by Jamie McMurray.
Like the previously revealed Fusion and Toyota Camry, the Chevrolets looked racy and -- perhaps more important to NASCAR and its fans -- distinctive. Like the Ford and Toyota, the Chevrolets mark a significant return to brand identity, an aspect all but lost with the generation of Cup cars introduced in 2007.
"It's sharp," Johnson said. "I saw my first logoed car at our photo shoot a few months ago, and it's strong looking… Ultimately, I think the fans' and the manufacturers' voice has come through, and we want brand identity. We want it to be seen."
For the longest time, Chevrolet didn't want its cars to be seen in their un-camouflaged splendor. Chevys that participated in sponsored NASCAR and Goodyear tire tests sported a checkerboard pattern, disguising their identity lines.
Cars used for photo shoots, such as the one Johnson mentioned, were transported in secrecy, away from prying eyes. When NASCAR recently announced rule changes that allowed greater latitude in the positioning of sponsor decals on the 2013 cars, those modifications were made on the fly.
Cosmetically, the new cars are an important step toward accentuating the difference between manufacturers. From a competition standpoint, however, they are not nearly as radical a departure from their predecessors as was the new car in 2007.
"This, you've got to work within certain boundaries to get a performance boost," said Jeff Gordon, "but you're going to have a car that still looks the way it needs to look and performs the way it's supposed to perform.
"The box is tighter, and all the teams are smarter. You look at the competition out there today, and we've all learned so much about bump stops, splitters and the under-tray of the car and aerodynamics. A lot of that will transfer to this car."
The new Chervolet SS is derived from the Australian built Holden Commodore, a rear-wheel drive car with a V8 engine. Gordon considers it a bit of a throwback, but he's glad the new race car incorporates the rear-wheel drive aspect.
"I'm excited that it's a V8 with rear-wheel drive," Gordon said. "These days, if you look at where things are going manufacturer-wise, it's kind of getting away from that, but I think that the race fans -- they like that -- and the car enthusiasts -- they like that. I applaud them for putting that into this car."