NASCAR Rolls Out Its Next Generation of Cars

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 6 2021

NASCAR opened up its new car showroom on Wednesday. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France and Brandon Thomas walked around the Las Vegas Cup Series garage in 2019 France had one directive for his new vehicle systems managing director: We want these cars to look like they should.

That meant starting from scratch with NASCAR and the original equipment manufacturers – OEMs – working together as never before in the sport’s history to achieve the objective. When NASCAR and the OEMs unveiled the Next Gen car Wednesday, it was the first time in nearly two decades the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and Toyota Camry to be raced in the Cup Series possessed the character lines of the corresponding passenger cars. 

“We knew we wanted to go the coupe direction,” Thomas said. “We knew that we were going to have to address a lot of things to fit that coupe style to the chassis that wasn’t in a current car. Up until now, typically a stock car has not been laid out completely as a full assembly with all the subsystems in it to this level of detail.”

The clean sheet of paper allowed the OEMs to take a direction that in many respects puts the “stock” back in “stock car racing” and perhaps once again makes the phrase “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” a valid marketing statement. 

“The most important thing was really to get the proportions right with a coupe, rear-wheel drive performance car,” said Eric Warren, General Motors director of NASCAR programs. “The lower greenhouse, the deck-lid size really matches up well to the production car.”

Ford Performance Global Director Mark Rushbrook said the items they pushed for during the Next Gen development were the “bones of the car.” Something that TRD President David Wilson noted gave the car “more technological relevancy.”

“An independent rear suspension, the rack-and-pinion steering, the driveline, that’s all important to us as a manufacturer to have more relevance to that architecture, be able to transfer learning back and forth between (the) road to the track, back to the road again,” Rushbrook said. 

“Then the biggest part, as the fans see it, is in the shape of the car, the proportions of the car. To be able to change that so you get the long hood, the short deck, the short overhangs, the front wheels forward, just from a distance, even without looking at the detail, it is very clearly a Mustang. Then the opportunity, more opportunity than we’ve ever had, to put in the design detail, all the design cues, the headlights, the grilles, three dimensions and depth of the grille, the whole side of the car and back of the car. We never had that much freedom before.”

Sporting a fully symmetrical, composite body, the car eliminates the need for 15-car stables with vehicles designed for a specific track. Each team will be limited to seven cars, but Toyota team co-owner and driver Denny Hamlin expects some organizations to begin with less. 

“With this composite body, we’re not bending anything anymore,” Hamlin said. “The shape is the same. I think they’re liable to go smaller until they understand how much inventory they’re actually going to use. What happens when we need to change something for safety reasons or competition reasons? You don’t want to waste that money. Certainly, you’ll have to have a good inventory of parts and spare parts for crashes.”

Twenty-six vendors designated by NASCAR provide all of the parts needed for the Next Gen car. Even though many items once manufactured by the teams will now be purchased, Warren said the Next Gen car actually sports “a lot more adjustments to the handling and suspension than the current car.”

“You have typical suspension geometry,” Warren said. “By having the independent rear suspension, there’s a whole other degree of freedom, different things in the rear, things that you can’t do now. (Currently) we can work in the front, but not the rear. The Next Gen car really allows us to have both ends of the car. 

“Also, there’s some different things the way the dampers, springs and suspension attach to the car, new adjustments to how much load goes into the steering. There are new things in the car that don’t exist in the current car that are really exciting. The number of variables you can change are actually a lot higher than what exists in the current car.”

In regards to the microchip shortage currently plaguing the automotive industry, NASCAR Senior Vice President for Racing Innovation John Probst doesn’t view that as an issue when it comes to being ready for the 2022 season.

“I think we’re largely isolated from that, in part because while the car is a clean sheet, there is a reasonable amount of carryover parts on the car,” Probst said. “All of the electrical parts or electronic parts that could be impacted by that are carryover. I can’t say if it would loosely impact a team later in the year trying to go to a test and not being able to get a hold of sensors or something like that, but as far as any material impact on what we’re doing, there’s no sign of that today and we don’t anticipate that moving forward. 

“We’re already starting to make deliveries to the race teams now, parts and pieces that will culminate (the) middle of June when we start delivering chassis to the teams.”

Multi-car tests are scheduled for August at Daytona, October at Charlotte on the oval and the ROVAL, and in November at Phoenix. There also is a possibility of a January test at Daytona in 2022.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 6 2021
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