Cup’s Next Gen Car Takes Drivers For A Ride

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 17 2020

Kurt Busch puts a Next Gen NASCAR Cup Series car through the paces at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday. Will the car be a ‘game changer’?(Photos courtesy of NASCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

NASCAR veteran Kurt Busch says he went back to school Monday while testing the Next Gen car scheduled to make its Cup Series debut in the 2022 Daytona 500.

“You know, it was like the first day of school, honestly,” Busch said after hot-lapping Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 2.32-mile ROVAL in Concord, N.C. “There’s so much to look at, digest and feel. I still have yet to even see the lap times, but they told me it’s been an impressive pickup of speed versus the traditional car.

“So, to me, that says Next Gen all over it _ when you’re going faster, turning better, accelerating harder, braking harder and braking faster. Just faster is better, so we’ll keep fine-tuning it.”

Busch, driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE fielded Chip Ganassi Racing, was joined by Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Toyota Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing, during the first of a two-day split test. Busch and Truex will resume working Wednesday on CMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval.

The 2004 Cup champion with Roush Fenway Racing, Busch again will drive the “Prototype 3” car prepared by Richard Childress Racing in conjunction with NASCAR. Equipped with an ECR engine, the third prototype previously was tested by NASCAR on Auto Club Speedway’s 2-mile oval in Fontana, Calif., and Dover (Del.) International Speedway’s “Monster Mile.”

Truex, the 2017 Cup champion with Furniture Row Racing, wheeled a prototype built by Action Express of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship equipped with a Ford Performance engine. The car most recently was tested on Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road-course in August.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps reiterated the sanctioning body’s commitment to the Next Gen program _ delayed in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic _ during an interview last week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio with hosts Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone.

“Yeah, I think before the pandemic we were in a situation where it was going to be tight to get the Next Gen car out for February of ‘21, but we would’ve made it,” Phelps said. “But with the pandemic there were facilities that were just shut down so we couldn’t get pieces and parts and we couldn’t do the testing that we want to do. So, we had to delay it a year.

Martin Truex Jr. takes a curve at the Charlotte Roval in the Next Gen car.

“I, for one, was disappointed. I believe that car is going to be a game-changer for us on a lot of fronts. One, I think the styling is going to be phenomenal. The engineers have worked really hard to reduce kind of that bubble that exists between two cars _ the leading car and the car in second _ and then on the way back, you know, kind of that dirty air. And so I think that we’ll have even more passing, more passage for the lead. I think it’s going to be a game-changer for us. And I think the economics of the car are going to be advantageous for the race teams as well.

“So lots of wins with what that new car is going to look like. And then obviously all the safety features that have been built into the existing cars, but then also keeping those things and even improving on that as well. I’m excited about it. We’re on-schedule. You know, John Probst and his team, working with OEMs, working with race teams, have done a really, really fantastic job. And it’s going to be exciting when that rolls out in the Daytona 500 in 2022.”

The Next Gen car features a sequential 6-speed gearbox _ an historic break from the traditional 4-speed/H-pattern manual transmission _ and bigger brakes.

“With the sequential gearbox, that’s the most fun,” Busch said. “I love shifting through the gears. It’s a one-lever, sequential gearbox shift. So, you start out in neutral and then you’ve got to go first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and down fourth, third, second, first. And so, you can’t just go through the H-pattern and go to whatever gear you want _ you have to go through them all. I think a racer will figure it out.

“The brakes are much bigger and the car can stop a lot quicker. And then, we actually have a hybrid horsepower range. Right now, we’re not in the full 750 HP, but we’re not the low 550 HP.

“Overall, the car’s first impression is that it’s fun, it’s exciting and different. I encourage everybody to dig into it to find its differences and to respect the process that NASCAR is going through to implement all these new, exciting components. A new front bulkhead, a new rear bulkhead and overall, the car’s driving and its feel.

“Out on the ROVAL, it feels like I’m qualifying every lap because of how impressive the lap times are and how much grip the car has in certain spots of the racetrack. Overall, a lot of fun. It’s neat working with all these different people trying to sort out a car that has never been on a road course before.”

Monday’s session also marked the first time two Next Gen cars were on-track simultaneously in an effort to help Goodyear Racing engineers develop tire code combinations.

“The focus is to go through tires for Goodyear and finding the best combination,” Busch said. “There’s a Watkins Glen tire here, there’s a Mid-Ohio tire and there’s also a Sonoma tire that we need to run. I think we’re just trying to log laps on components for road-course stuff and then Wednesday will be the primary focus on getting the cars out there together, seeing how they manipulate the air and if they’re less effected by the air.”

Busch added the Next Gen’s independent rear suspension gives the chassis a sports car feel.

“With the independent rear suspension, there’s different lingo and talk about anti-dives and different ways we’re going to adjust these cars instead of your typical track bar or wedge,” Busch said. “So, there’s a lot of adjustments and a lot of new terminology. Driver-to-driver, they’re going to figure it out, and then you have to go to the next level in how you translate that information to your crew and how the crew goes through the new components and finds out what’s the most effective. That’s going to make things different.”

Busch noted the Next Gen even sounds different due to its split exhaust setup.  “It sounds ‘roadier’ and deeper. The sound was very cool,” Busch said. “I don’t get to hear cars a lot because I’m in the car racing, but to hear Truex go around and to hear the split exhaust _ one pipe’s out the left, one pipe’s out the right _ that’s an old-school, Trans Am-style, thundering power feel.

“But the car accelerates quicker, it stops quicker, it turns quicker, it’s more nimble. All the lap time that’s been gained is through the infield section with the independent rear suspension and the ability to shift quicker. So, really the car, I don’t want to use the word ‘steroids’ _ it’s just the car is more effective and the car is more sensitive to changes and to feel, even with a shorter side wall. The car is riding smooth, but you feel everything more vividly.”

Truex’s comments also covered the car’s bigger tires and brakes, the sequential transmission and the sound. “It does everything a little bit better,” Truex said. “A little bit easier to drive in general around the road course. It turns really well. We’re having a few issues with the steering on the big track. If the car bottoms-out, it really goes haywire, but otherwise it’s all been good and it’s been solid and fun to drive so far.

“It sounds cool, I think. I don’t know what it sounds like from up in the grandstands. In the pits, I feel like it sounds pretty good. I think it sounds pretty cool and bad-ass when you’re driving it. It’s throaty, deep sounding.”

Both cars will be switched over to an oval configuration for Wednesday’s session, when Busch and Truex will simulate racing conditions. “I think Wednesday is going to be the real test to see what I think and to see how it feels on a fast oval,” Truex said. “I think that’s going to be a real eye-opener.”

Busch said the car as tested Monday was on the “aggressive side for feel, twitchiness and movement. I like its movement back and forth. But, on the oval sections, it’s a little bit on-edge and we need to try to perfect that and that’s more of the Wednesday focus. We will run different valving to help with the steering just to see what that change does. But road-course stuff, we’re in the box. Oval, we’ll know more on Wednesday.”


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 17 2020
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Lee Wood says:

    I do not like this, at all! NASCAR has been distancing itself from stock car racing and from stock car racing fans, for a long time and it seems now, that they have finally made the full break away! This thing is not a stock car! It looks more like an Australian V-8 Supercar and some kind of make up car that a kid drew! There is not ever a remote resemblance to a stock car! This thing is clearly designed for road-racing, instead of oval track racing! Seeing that NASCAR is in the process of dropping ovals in favor of adding road-courses, one had to wonder exactly when they plan to eliminate all ovals or keep one or two token ovals on the schedule in favor of road-courses and street courses! Stock car fans have NO SAY SO in the matter,, what so ever! NASCAR has made it BLATENTLY clear that they care nothing about us and/or what we like! They would rather chase after non-motorsport fans and.or fans from other forms of racing! My suggestion to NASCAR is to change their name. The can easily do this without having to change their acronym. Simply drop the word stock and add the word sport. National Association of Sport Car Auto Racing! That will reflect truth in the way they are heading and will give stock car fans their final reason to leave this sport. I wash my hands of NASCAR. I WAS a life-long, diehard, hardcore fan, but NO MORE! You have LOST me NASCAR, because you don’t care. I’m GONE!