NASCAR completed the second day of its two-day Next Gen test at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday, as eight cars raced on the 2.5-mile track in Florida.
There were two goals for the trip. The first was to develop a tire with Goodyear that has the ability to return to Daytona in February. Secondly, NASCAR wanted to make sure it was able to hit its target speeds — both in single-car and multi-car runs — on the superspeedway, which normally flirts with the 200-mph mark.
“Overnight we changed the tapered spacer and made it smaller, to about 510 horsepower, and reduced the rear spoiler to seven inches,” said John Probst, NASCAR‘s senior vice president of racing innovation. “That had the desired effect today, we did slow the cars down some. The feedback from the drivers was that it wasn‘t a radical change from one to the next, so we feel like we now have that data to evaluate coming back here.”
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Probst said NASCAR will probably go back to Daytona in January for another test with even more teams, saying it was possible that session could feature 26 or more teams.
“It‘s an important track for us to get right,” he said.
The drivers involved Wednesday were Chris Buescher (Roush Fenway Racing), William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports), Ross Chastain (Chip Ganassi Racing), Cole Custer (Stewart-Haas Racing), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing), Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing), Joey Logano (Team Penske) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty Racing). Over half of the group has won a NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona before: Byron, Dillon, Hamlin, Logano and Stenhouse.
“I thought it went really well,” Byron said. “We got really aggressive there in that second drafting session. I feel like we were all pushing each other to make moves, and everyone was pretty comfortable with it, so that was really good to see.”
Another area of concern was heat inside the vehicle. Teams tried out a few different methods, and Probst said NASCAR has some ideas to solve that issue.
Daytona marked the first Next Gen test with more than three cars on track at once. The first on-track test was back in October of 2019 at Richmond Raceway. The project was ultimately delayed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing its competitive debut to 2022. NASCAR announced the development phase was complete on Feb. 1, 2021, and manufacturers unveiled their finished models on May 5, 2021.
“I would say it‘s kind of like jumping into the unknown,” Custer said. “There‘s so many things you don‘t know what it‘s going to be like. It‘s pretty much rethinking the whole way we race. We‘re going over things we never would have thought of to go over with our other car.”
NASCAR will give teams their first organizational test with their own Next Gen cars in October at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval layout. There are then two more organizational tests tentatively scheduled after the 2021 season concludes to allow teams more prep time for next season.
“It‘s a race car,” said Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner. “It‘s got four tires and a steering wheel. So, from my standpoint, it doesn‘t change greatly. But still, there are some nuances. Your vision is a little different. The shifting is going to be different, especially when you go into road courses. So you‘re going to want to get as many reps as you can to learn that. Any chance that I can get to get in it to be better acclimated, the better off I‘ll be.”