Three new stock cars surfaced in Charlotte on Wednesday as part of a special ceremony. NASCAR officially revealed the Next Gen Toyota Camry, Ford Mustang, and Chevrolet Camaro while providing an astounding amount of information. Here are the biggest takeaways from a packed press conference and subsequent media sessions.
One key takeaway is that the cars underwent a massive design change. They now have a “coupe-like appearance,” which driver Denny Hamlin pointed out during the presser. The stock cars have a shorter rear deck, a lower roof, and wider dimensions. They more closely resemble street models of popular vehicles that are available at car lots across America.
The body materials will also be different. Instead of using the traditional sheet metal for the various cars, the NASCAR teams will transition to a durable composite body. Five Star Fabricating, Inc., will be in charge of producing the composite body panels for all of the teams. The Xfinity Series previously began using these panels back in 2017.
“This new car’s going to allow them to get into the wall a little bit, get into each other a little bit, without really any worse for the wear as far as the performance of the vehicle,” said John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president for racing innovation. “We’re really hoping that this encourages them to get a little bit even more aggressive, if that’s possible. Our drivers are pretty aggressive already, but we think this composite body will really allow them to bump and bang a whole lot more.”
There will be an emphasis on better grip
The move from a 15-inch steel tire to an 18-inch forged aluminum version has become a prominent talking point in the lead-up to the Next Gen reveal. Now NASCAR has provided some insight into the decision. The wide, 12-inch tire will provide an emphasis on the mechanical grip with a larger contact patch. Goodyear will adapt to this change by building softer tire compounds for increased grip and fall-off.
The bigger tires will put more control in the hands of the drivers, and they will raise the height of the race cars by two inches. The Next Gen car will feature a new splitter in the front while a flat underbody and a rear diffuser will help channel and transition air flow moving under the car. The ultimate goal is to reduce the effects of more disruptive “dirty” air behind it.
Along with an emphasis on grip, NASCAR is taking extra steps to keep vehicles on the track during collisions. In order to achieve this goal, the new stock cars will continue to feature the roof flaps that exist on the current generation. There will also be a lower-mounted diffuser flap that deploys to help in the event of a backward slide at Daytona, Pocono, or Talladega.
The Next Gen car will set the stage for hybrid engines
A press release on Wednesday confirmed that the next generation of the stock car will start out with a 358-cubic inch engine. The amount of horsepower will vary based on which track is next on the schedule, but the number should be similar to the 550 to 750-horsepower range currently used with the sixth-generation cars. Though NASCAR officials said that they are still examining the different options.
One interesting aspect mentioned by the OEM representatives during their respective media availabilities is that NASCAR could move to a hybrid engine in the near future. GM’s director of NASCAR programs Eric Warren mentioned that brands across the world are examining different ways of electrification. Though he noted that internal combustion engines will likely power stock cars for a few more years.
“We’re excited about what this platform does,” added Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance. “It’s an opportunity to future proof. We’re great today with what’s going to be racing in 2022, but we know as our world is chasing with hybrid power trains, full-electric power trains, if we were going to do this new car as an industry, we have to make sure it’s able to grow with the automotive world, what people are going to be parking in their driveways and garages.
“The ability to have hybrid in there very easily in the very near future was important to us, something that NASCAR and the industry has already worked on,” Rushbrook continued. “We’re able to do that. That’s going to be important so that we can continue learning the technical innovation of hybrid systems, and beyond that to fully electric cars, too. The future is coming pretty quickly. I think we’re ready for it.”
The Next Gen car will start out only in the top series
Following the big reveal, there were several questions about the future of the Next Gen car. Would it be only for the Cup Series, or would the Xfinity Series have new race cars as well? NASCAR’s chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell met with the media after the big reveal and provided further context.
“For now, it is solely Cup. As we take a look and evolve this, we want to take a look at where could it play if we really like the directions it’s going in from all aspects, not just the racing,” O’Donnell said. “But when we look at kind of the whole car in its entirety around potential ownership and where we’re going and new OEMs, there are some things we could look at, body styles that you may be able to put on that chassis. So nothing planned today, but we have had some internal discussions on where could this be, not only domestically but maybe this is something used internationally, as well.”
The reference to international racing adds some intrigue to the future of the Next Gen car. NASCAR currently has an official stock car racing series based overseas, the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. The teams in this series primarily drive Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro stock cars, but O’Donnell’s comments indicate that the league could see some new options in the future.