NASCAR’s Le Mans Entry Could Address Short Track Concerns

Richmond Raceway

Getty NASCAR Cup Series drivers race at Richmond Raceway.

NASCAR held an extensive test with its Garage 56 entry at Virginia International Raceway. The focus was on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but there were notes taken about how to fix some Cup Series races.

NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve O’Donnell provided some insight during an appearance on Corey LaJoie’s “Stacking Pennies” podcast. He explained that they have found some things during testing that NASCAR can try “for a fairly inexpensive way.” O’Donnell added that NASCAR would “most likely” go test some potential changes at Richmond Raceway.

“I think there’s gonna be some good things,” O’Donnell said during the November 16 episode. “At least from what we’ve seen already in the wind tunnel and a lot of the sim data, it looks really good in terms of getting rid of some of the challenges as we’ve seen, particularly on the short tracks.”

Races at short tracks became a point of concern for drivers and teams during the 2022 season. The Next Gen car made it incredibly difficult to pass for multiple reasons. Dirty air was chief among them. Though the ability to recover from missing a corner by shifting also took away opportunities.

The Hendrick Motorsports-built Garage 56 Chevrolet does not have to follow the strict rules laid out by the NASCAR Rule Book as it will be used for the 24 Hours of Le Mans next June. Instead, NASCAR can test out a variety of changes on the Next Gen platform and see if they could potentially translate to the Cup Series cars.

The Short Tracks Created Strong Conversations

Aric Almirola

GettyAric Almirola practices for the race at Martinsville Speedway.

Following a tame spring trip to Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR and Goodyear held a tire test to see if there was a better setup that could come into play for the pivotal Round of Eight elimination race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR Executive Vice President of Competition, said during an April appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that NASCAR was in contact with a large cross-section of drivers so that they could get crucial feedback and potentially make some improvements.

The tire test was the first step, but Miller also noted that many drivers had mentioned the shifting aspect as something that NASCAR should address. Fast-forward to the end of the season, and there are still discussions taking place about the style of racing on short tracks.

“And then, ultimately, we’ve got to look at shifting,” O’Donnell added during his conversation with LaJoie. “Do we want to eliminate that? How can we work with the engine builders to improve upon that also?”

NASCAR Will Continue To Focus on Short Tracks & Road Courses

The Next Gen car created excitement among viewers and fans with how it performed on intermediate tracks and superspeedways during the 2022 season. The short tracks and road courses were a different story.

There will likely be an aero test at Richmond during the offseason as NASCAR examines ways to fix the on-track product, but that will only be one factor. There will continue to be an overall focus on the Next Gen car and how it performs on both short tracks and road courses.

“So if you’ve got a good car and you’re out there and you’re able to pass guys, you should be able to do that,” O’Donnell added during the podcast. “And so we’ve looked at what’s happening in short tracks. You look at the brakes on the road courses, they’re so good.

“So this car is different for sure. But it presents some challenges on both short tracks and road courses. So we’re looking at a lot of things around the aero. Certainly looking at some things around the tires, but you know that’s going to be our big focus in the offseason is both road courses and short tracks for sure.”



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