October 12 served as the final day of Next Gen testing at the Charlotte Roval, which featured 21 stock cars. There were several important takeaways from the two-day session, but several NASCAR drivers raved about the handling on the road courses and the “fun” factor.
Several drivers provided their opinions about the Next Gen cars during the October 11-12 tests at Charlotte Roval. Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman told Racer’s Kelly Crandall and other media members that the car is “a lot of fun to drive” and that it still handles like a race car. Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick added that the Next Gen car is “more fun to drive” than the current iteration.
Ryan Blaney, the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang, met with media members on Tuesday, October 12. Per Alex Andrejev of the Charlotte Observer, he explained that the braking potential is “huge” and that there is less wheel hop when entering the corners. Additionally, Blaney discussed how the wider tires and independent rear suspension provide the drivers with more opportunities to push the stock cars.
William Byron, the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, mentioned the handling during his media session on October 12. He told reporters that the Next Gen car handles more like a go-kart and that it’s nimble entering the corners. Byron added that the new setup features his driving style.
The Future of NASCAR Could Feature Even More First-Time Winners
The 2021 season featured multiple drivers securing their first career wins. Michael McDowell won the season-opening Daytona 500 on February 14 while Christopher Bell captured the checkered flag at the Daytona Road Course on February 21. Bubba Wallace rounded out the list of first-time Cup Series winners with his victory in the YellaWood 500 on October 4.
According to multiple drivers, the Next Gen cars should open the doors for even more first-time winners. Corey LaJoie of Spire Motorsports tweeted after the first day of testing that the smaller teams will have a “MUCH bigger chance to be competitive” than he previously anticipated. Team Penske’s Joey Logano echoed this sentiment while discussing how strategy and execution will play a bigger role in 2022 and beyond.
“It’s definitely going to change everything,” Logano said on the NASCAR YouTube broadcast. “The field itself is probably going to keep getting closer as we make laps because everyone’s cars are pretty similar. … We’re all going to have a pretty similar starting point — obviously, bodies and motors will be different — but for the most part, the parts and pieces are the same.
“The cars are naturally going to be closer on speed because of that, so it comes down to details. Pit road will be more important, restarts will be more important, the little things that help pass cars efficiently. Those things are going to be the difference-maker.”
NASCAR Teams Still Have Issues To Fix Before 2022
While several drivers raved about how fun the Next Gen car is, they also mentioned two primary issues that will become a focus for NASCAR leading up to the 2022 season. The heat, which is an existing problem, and some steering issues that impacted a wide variety of drivers.
Reddick, Bowman, Blaney, Logano, LaJoie, and Byron all mentioned the steering issues on social media and during sitdowns with media members. They explained that the handling was fantastic on the road course until the steering issues surfaced. At this point, the stock cars became very difficult to handle.
Per FOX Sports reporter Bob Pockrass, LaJoie said that he was one of the drivers dealing with a bad vibration while navigating the Charlotte Roval. The driver of the No. 7 said that the team had already replaced parts twice. NASCAR also revealed that some drivers were dealing with set screws backing out.
NASCAR experimented with multiple possible solutions during the two-day Next Gen test to combat the heat issues. Some cars had air vents in the bumper area while others had air ducts in the windshield and slits in the rear window.
Reddick told media members that he was actually cold early in the day while driving the car with the openings in the windows. He added that these openings could be a “great solution” for the races that generate a lot of heat in the stock cars. Per Pockrass, Reddick said that he did not have any debris come in through the openings, which would become a primary concern if NASCAR incorporates the cooling option.