We did some digging a few weeks ago to share some details on the Next Gen race car coming to NASCAR and some of the firsts that we will see for the series. Though NASCAR was not ready to confirm any details back in December, it recently released some new information after a test at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Erik Jones that confirms several of our predictions.
Two of our biggest predictions were that NASCAR would move to an independent rear suspension and use a six-speed sequential transaxle. NASCAR confirmed after the test that the prototype is in fact equipped with a sequential gearbox. We even got some feedback from Erik Jones, who was testing the car.
“The shifting has been fun—it’s been different,” Jones says. I’ve never done anything other than normal H-pattern shifting in my career. You can bang right through the gears; we did a restart at the end of the day yesterday and it was fun learning about that and how you can push that gearbox. That really gets you excited for the road courses and what it’s going to be capable of there.”
While NASCAR did not release any new information on the suspension, it did release some new photos from the test. The one seen above with the wheels removed from the car clearly shows independent links on the rear. If we zoom in on the image, as shown below, a toe link is visible right below the caliper; a coilover-type damper is seen right above it. We can spot a red spring mounted on the damper and also what appears to be an upper control arm.
In addition to the changes in the rear, we can see some of the new suspension in the front. The lower control arm is visible to the left of the rotor and we can glimpse a coilover-type spring setup in the background of the picture. This confirms our prediction of a move to a coilovers in the front as well; the traditional damper configuration seen on the current-generation car is nowhere to be seen. We also see an upper mount similar to those in sports car racing that allow shims to be inserted or removed in order to adjust camber.
It appears that our predictions for the 2021 car were right on target and that development is moving ahead with the transformation of the car used in the top level of NASCAR racing. John Probst, Vice President of Racing Innovation for NASCAR, added some thoughts on the test, stating NASCAR “continues to work in the wind tunnel” and, specifically, that it is “developing rear diffusers to generate more rear downforce” (relative to previous iterations of the test car). NASCAR is also working to integrate components such as flap-down doors to the diffuser in order to modify liftoff speed.
Probst also added that they have started building a “Phase Three” prototype and will “probably start using this car as a ‘second car’ to start simulating cars in traffic” in order to see what they can learn from multi-car situations. The next test for the car will be in Fontana, California, immediately following the race weekend at the beginning of March, which should give the team a good opportunity to see how the car behaves with some rubber on the track.
It sounds like the Next Gen car is making some significant progress, and this is our best view yet of the general formula. Some changes are bound to happen based on the tests that have been completed so far and we can’t wait to see how it looks once more variants are out on the track.