NASCAR held a special Next Gen test session at Bowman Gray Stadium on Tuesday, October 26, and gave three icons an opportunity to get behind the wheel. Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Clint Bowyer all walked away from their respective sessions making strong statements about the future.
Earnhardt had the most praise for the Next Gen car after he ran approximately 50 laps around the quarter-mile track. He explained that the Busch Clash will “be crazy” considering that there will be 20 cars on the track at the LA Memorial Coliseum in early February. However, he said that the race will work and that it will be a good show.
“It does everything better,” Earnhardt told NASCAR’s Alex Weaver after completing his session. “I drove the car around the track, and it brakes… the brake performance is going to take me a while to get used to or any of these guys to get used to. That was probably the thing that I found myself improving the most as I ran.”
Earnhardt added that he was getting on the brakes too early while driving as he did during his career. Once he made adjustments, he began improving his lap times. Earnhardt added that the car “hunkers down” and accelerates out of corners better than the current stock cars.
Bowyer Promised Some ‘Carnage’ During the Busch Clash
Earnhardt proclaimed that the Busch Clash will work even with drivers competing in new cars and on a smaller track. Bowyer echoed this sentiment while also promising some carnage and hurt feelings.
The driver-turned-FOX Sports analyst provided his thoughts after taking laps around the track. He explained that he wanted to have a first-hand feel of the car and see what the drivers will deal with as they go through the 2022 Cup Series schedule, starting with the exhibition race at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
“Our first race off the bat for the Next Gen car, next season, is going to be something very new,” Bowyer said after the session, per FOX Sports. “This Coliseum race is going to go down big. We knew it was going to, and this was a perfect Goodyear Tire test for it.
“The car handles phenomenal. There’s not much room out there, let me tell you. These guys are going to be in trouble. There’s going to be some carnage. There’s going to be some hurt feelings.”
Bowyer already tested out one version of the custom-built short track. He climbed into an iRacing rig during a September 14 episode of “NASCAR Race Hub” and completed some test laps around the virtual Coliseum while “battling” Tyler Reddick and Jamie McMurray. The trio bumped their way around the short track and occasionally spun, leading Bowyer to say that the fans in the grandstands would be the “real winners” of the exhibition race. Nearly two months later, he reiterated this point.
Stewart Provided Key Feedback About Goodyear Tires
While Bowyer and Earnhardt conducted hot laps to gain knowledge for their respective roles in the broadcast booth, Stewart took on a different role. Smoke worked with Goodyear Tires during a closed session and provided feedback about the handling on the short track.
The Hall of Famer spun multiple times while navigating the quarter-mile track, but he did not hit the walls or cause damage to the Next Gen stock car. Like Bowyer and Earnhardt, Stewart never raced at Bowman Gray Stadium, so he couldn’t truly provide feedback about whether the Next Gen car was better or worse than the current iteration. Instead, he focused on the tire compound and whether it will be the best option for the Busch Clash.
“Goodyear had a good plan coming into today, and I think they’re pretty happy with the results that they got,” Stewart said in a quote released to media members by NASCAR. “I think what they brought with the control set is probably a little harder than what they need. They brought a softer tire, and they were pretty happy with it, and I think that’s probably a combination of what they’ll bring out West.”