NASCAR put all testing on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic and moved the debut of its Next Gen car from 2021 to 2022. With racing now resuming, so has development of the Next Gen car. NASCAR confirms that the Next Gen car will test next week at Dover International Speedway, piloted by driver Cole Custer.
Testing at Dover is an important development step. The track is known to be tough on race cars, and many of the components of the current car are specifically designed to withstand the loads it’s bound to experience there. Many of the tracks on the NASCAR circuit have high sustained load force, but Dover is unique in that it features some of the highest and most aggressive peak loads from the bumps going into the third turn.
While development was on hold for some time, more details of the Next Gen car have started to trickle out following the first road course test, which was completed two days ago by Action Express Racing. Behind the wheel were IMSA driver Felipe Nasr and NASCAR Xfinity series driver Austin Cindric.
NASCAR Senior VP of Innovation and Racing Development, John Probst, shared that “[the] Action Express test allows a sports car team to learn about the architecture of the Next Gen car and explore any opportunities to adopt new technologies.” He added that the test “also benefits NASCAR—it helps us check the durability of parts, helps with tire development and gives us data from a road course test.”
This most recent test took many by surprise, as even NASCAR Cup teams have not been able to perform testing of the Next Gen car on their own yet. It is currently unclear how and in what form Action Express might be able to adopt any technologies from this car. We checked in with multiple team personnel on the Cup level, all of whom preferred to remain anonymous, the whole lot stated that they were unaware that Action Express even had a car, let alone that testing was going on. We’ve reached out to NASCAR to get further clarification on whether Next Gen parts are available to outside teams and how Action Express might have been to get its hands on a car.
The crew chief of the #9 Chevrolet Camaro, Alan Gustafson, recently spoke with media after his win at the Daytona road course race with Chase Elliot. We checked in with him to find out his thoughts on the Next Gen car and Dover, asking whether the car was more suited for road courses or ovals based on how it was designed. Gustafson noted that “the car is more suited for road course racing and more suited for street course racing,” over oval racing due to the way the underbody is built, the aerodynamic setup of the car, and the fact that it will be symmetrical. Gustafson did not expand beyond that on the car’s design but, according to additional sources, the chassis will be built as a symmetrical unit and any changes that need to be done for road courses (versus ovals) will pertain to suspension uprights or control arms.
Given that it’s next on the schedule, Dover is preoccupying NASCAR crew chiefs and engineers at the moment. What does the future look like for the Next Gen car appearing there in the near futre? It will get a “pretty significant test at Dover,” said Gustafson, adding that “there is no place like Dover,” and “nothing that loads like that,” echoing what we’ve heard from all corners of the industry.
Gustafson called the Next Gen racer very “V-8 Supercar-esqe.” The larger brake size is due to the increased wheel size, and these changes should make the cars faster at road courses and short tracks like Martinsville, which are typically harder on brakes. High-speed oval courses, by contrast, are generally light on braking.
Based on the photos from the Action Express test that were captured by Kickin’ the Tires we can see that the car has large brake rotors in the front (maybe in the 14-inch range) and are clamped by six-piston calipers, mounted low. In addition, it appears that the Action Express car has more updates than the last car we saw being tested by NASCAR: we can now make out now rub blocks on the bottom of the car, and the diffuser has been moved in so that it is more flush with the rear bumper.
We are likely to see a similar setup next week at Dover, with NASCAR completing some updates since its last test and installing more production parts on this car from its chosen suppliers. We look forward to seeing the Next Gen car back on track and learning how it handles the tough challenge of Dover.