By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
CONCORD, N.C. -- Even though Hendrick Motorsports won 18 of 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races in 2007, and even though Jeff Gordon came within an eyelash of his fifth championship, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet never liked the winged behemoth that debuted that year.
The lack of brand identity of the car design was something that struck Gordon immediately.
"We had a car (Gen-4) that looked really similar to the manufacturer vehicle that was in the showroom," Gordon said Wednesday during the Hendrick Motorsports stop on the Sprint Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway. "We went completely away from that in every which way, from having a splitter, we had the wing, and we just had this blocky looking car that wasn't a sexy looking car.
"We made that car (the 2007 car) a really good race car. It took a while, but we did. Now I look at this (Gen-6) race car and see where we're starting out with this car -- and it feels good. It drives good, it's forgiving, it's got a great aerodynamic balance... So far, I'm a big fan. I love it. I like what's happening underneath the car. I like the body style."
That doesn't mean, however, that the transition to the new car will be easy.
"Any time you start to get used to something and there's a change, it's a learning curve," Gordon said. "In my opinion, the older you get in this sport, and the more you've been around, the harder it is to switch to new things.
"There's going to be times, I think, that we're going to be challenged. It seems like the repaves, (requiring) the hard tires, is where I struggle the most. The tracks that are abrasive, where you've got to finesse the car, find different lines, work with the team on setups to try to manage the tires in a green-flag run, that's my strong suit -- always has been."
Even before this season, Furniture Row Racing had a close relationship with Richard Childress Racing. After all, Furniture Row gets its engines and chassis from RCR.
The partnership was strengthened recently when Mark McArdle, managing director of competition at Furniture Row, took on a dual role as director of racing operations at RCR. With Furniture Row based in Denver, Colo., and RCR in Welcome, N.C., McAardle has a long commute.
The new opportunity for McArdle resulted from a standing offer by Furniture Row owner Barney Visser and general manager Joe Garone and hit critical mass when RCR hired Eric Warren as director of competition late in 2012. McArdle and Warren worked together at Evernham Motorsports.
"Joe and Barney offered up my services to RCR if they could use me in any way to help that situation that they have there," McArdle told the NASCAR Wire Service. "Eric Warren and I had worked together for eight years at Evernham's. When he heard about that offer, he took us up on it and has asked me to operate as director of racing operations.
"The Cup teams, the Nationwide teams and the truck teams all report up through me. I report to Eric."
With three Cup teams at RCR and one at Furniture Row, McArdle is spending more time in North Carolina as the organizations develop the Gen-6 car.
"Right now, because of the intensity of the changeover process at RCR, we're doing kind of a two thirds/one third," McArdle said. "Two thirds of any given calendar month is being spent here in North Carolina, and about one third in Denver at this point.
"We hope that, as things become more stabilized and settled, that that will become more 50-50. Eventually the hope is to be able to train someone at RCR to step into that role."
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