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Racing

NASCAR Gets it Right with Next Gen Car in 2022

  • Fans could almost immediately see how improved the latest iteration of NASCAR’s top-line car was throughout the 2022 season.
  • The Next Gen car was not without its detractors, including several drivers who called for NASCAR to take the design of the car back to the drawing board.
  • The Next Gen was perhaps unlike any other car ever built for NASCAR.

    After several shortcomings, if not abject failures such as the poorly-named and equally bereft “Car of Tomorrow” to the uncompetitive “Generation 6” predecessor, NASCAR finally got it right for the 2022 season with the introduction of the highly-anticipated and so-called “Next Generation” (“Next Gen” or “Gen 7”—as in Generation 7—for short) car.

    Even though there were some growing pains and some room for improvement that will be addressed and fixed for the 2023 season, fans could almost immediately see how improved the latest iteration of NASCAR’s top-line car was throughout the 2022 season, starting with its debut in the non-points Busch Light Clash exhibition at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 6, 2022.

    Austin Cindric tests the Next Gen car in 2022.

    James GilbertGetty Images

    The Next Gen was perhaps unlike any other car ever built for NASCAR. It was not only racy, it borrowed significantly from sports car racing including extensive improvements in aero and downforce packages, cost effectiveness was built in, there was greater interchangeability (again, to save money) of parts and extending their durability and shelf life, so to speak. In development for nearly three years, the Next Gen car quickly won over most doubters or critics who felt NASCAR wouldn’t be able to deliver upon what it promised.

    But that’s just it, the sanctioning body DID deliver on what it promised and we saw one of the most competitive seasons ever in the Cup Series. And in a twist of irony, Joey Logano and Team Penske not only won the first race in the Next Gen at the LA Coliseum, but Logano also wound up winning the 2022 NASCAR Cup championship, essentially book-ending the season with wins … and thanks in most ways to the Next Gen car.

    The Next Gen car was originally set to debut in the 2021 season-opening Daytona 500. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in February 2020, NASCAR realized it would have to put off its development plans and further testing and ultimately delay introduction of the new ride for one year to 2022.

    One significant aspect of the development of the Next Gen car was how, from 2019 through 2021, numerous drivers were given the opportunity to take part in tests of the new car. Instead of just a small handful of drivers, NASCAR brought in most of its drivers to test at various times and/or venues.

    Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon was the first driver to test the first Next Gen prototype in 2019. Over the next two-plus years, other drivers that put the Next Gen car through its paces included Joey Logano, Erik Jones, William Byron, Cole Custer, IMSA sports car ace Felipe Nasr, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, David Ragan, Justin Allgaier, Drew Herring, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kaz Grala, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer and Stewart Friesen.


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    Car fires became a concern throughout the first season of the Next Gen car.

    Sean GardnerGetty Images

    And even after the Next Gen was put into play full-time to start the 2022 season, continued testing took place throughout the season, including drivers such as Bubba Wallace, Chastain, Custer, Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola.

    Looking ahead to 2023, in addition to tweaks that teams have requested, NASCAR—or more precisely, Hendrick Motorsports—will field a Next Gen car in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first NASCAR stock car to race at Le Mans since 1976. It is anticipated that seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who retired from Cup competition after the 2020 season, will be the driver of that car.

    The Next Gen car was not without its detractors, including several drivers who called for NASCAR to take the design of the car back to the drawing board. The sanctioning body listened to many of the drivers that criticized it for a variety of issues, including tires and wheel issues, overwhelming amounts of heat generated within the cockpit and a variety of aero issues. It announced on October 1, 2022 that several changes would be implemented for the 2023 car, including a new rear bumper construction, rear chassis clip and center chassis clip.

    Follow Autoweek correspondent Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

    Read the full article here

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