Several drivers were busy this week turning laps in NASCAR’s Next Gen car at Daytona International Speedway. The 2.5-mile superspeedway will be where the car makes its debut, after a year’s delay due to COVID, in February of 2022.
A total of eight drivers and cars turned laps on Tuesday and finished up Wednesday.
“Our main goals coming down to Daytona were to develop a tire with Goodyear that we could come back with in February and also to make sure the speeds that the cars were going to run in single-car and multi-car runs were within our targets,” NASCAR senior vice president of racing innovation John Probst said. “We made some runs yesterday. We were really close to the speeds we’re looking for, but we only had eight cars in the draft. We wanted to make sure that we’re conservative coming back here and need to have something in our back pocket should we get here and speeds are too high.”
On Wednesday Probst said they were able to slow the cars down.
“Overnight we changed the taped spacer and made it smaller, to about 510 horsepower, and reduced the rear spoiler to seven inches,” he said. “That had the desired effect today, we did slow the cars down some. The feedback from the drivers was that it wasn’t a radical change from one to the next, so we feel like we now have that data to evaluate coming back here.”
Probst added that there is still work to do.
“We have to work on the heat in the car,” he said. “We have some ideas there. We used the afternoon today to try some big swings at things and found some directions to go, so I feel like we made some really big gains there.”
Probst said they will look to return to Daytona in January for more testing.
“it’s an important track for us to get right,” he said. “We’ll probably have a good number of teams, possibly 26 or more.”
The new cars will feature not only new safety features but new innovations as well.
“Inside we’re working on getting some stuff figured out to make it a little more comfortable,” driver Chris Buescher said. The rearview camera is something that is really neat there, learned a lot about it in the runs and the drafting runs there. You can actually see quite a bit more than you’re used to. I used the camera a lot, and the spotter up on the roof to learn where cars are and be able to start getting a gauge of how close they really are.
“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear, it still applies to the camera, too. So we’re still trying to figure that out. It’s pretty warm, so we’re working on trying to cool it off. We’ve got some different hose configurations, so we’re going through those trying to alleviate some of the heat inside. Aside from that, once you get strapped in, it doesn’t feel a whole lot different than any other race car.”
William Byron said he felt the testing went well.
“We got really aggressive there in that second drafting session,” Byron said. “I felt like we were all pushing each other to make moves, and everyone was pretty comfortable with it so that was really good to see.”
Byron said the speed seemed to be close to what they raced with here just a few weeks ago.
“It’s within a second or two,” he said. “I don’t know exactly, it feels a little bit slower, you have a little bit more time to think on the speedways. But I like that. I think it kind of lets you think more about the moves.”
Denny Hamlin won last Sunday at Darlington and was behind the wheel again for testing.
“We worked with some different packages to try to make the car suck up and draft,” Hamlin said. “Obviously our number one priority is to put on a great show when we come back. We’re trying to figure out how we can make these cars draft and put on the greatest shows that we worked on for 20+ years with the other car. It’s a learning process. We’re really focused on the heat of the car, trying to get the heat out. Those are our main focuses for the day.
Joey Logano said it’s just like any new car.
“There’s some low-hanging fruit and some areas to gain,” Logano said. “It’s not fully refined like the vehicle we’ve been using for the past 10 years. Over time we’ll get there. But it takes laps, it takes these race teams a lot of smart people working on it to get there. We’re making gains, getting closer.”