The NASCAR Cup Series‘ Next Gen car testing process continued on Tuesday and Wednesday as the 2022-bound vehicle made its début on a superspeedway. Chris Buescher assumed testing duties of the seventh-generation car around Daytona International Speedway for both days.
“Daytona was an important test for us, because when we come back here in 2022 we have to make sure we hit the speed targets that we’re looking for. We came here with one car, obviously we would like to come here with 15 or 20, but we just don’t have that many right now,” said NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation John Probst. “So we played with a lot of horsepower levels and drag levels to hit our target speed, which we were able to do pretty easily. We did that early in day one. Then spent the rest of the test trying some new things on steering and also doing some ride-height sweeps just to get some sensitivities in the car to ride height.”
The Next Gen car has undergone seven test sessions to date across a variety of track layouts as NASCAR continues to refine its performance. After Austin Dillon and Joey Logano tested first at Richmond and Phoenix in late 2019, Erik Jones (Homestead), William Byron (Fontana), Cole Custer (Dover), and Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. (Charlotte Roval and oval) did so in 2020. IMSA team Action Express Racing conducted their own test at the Daytona road course in August and provided a car for the Roval test, the latter of which was the first to feature multiple cars on track.
“One of my favourite things is the sequential shifting. Takes a little bit of getting used to, but it brings me back to my Legends car days,” Buescher commented in a Tuesday video providing his first impressions. “Really easy to use, very quick shifting which is also a lot of fun.”
Other drivers have also praised the six-speed sequential gearbox, a far cry from the traditional four-speed H-shaped gearbox. While Buescher compared it to Legends cars, where he began his racing career, Busch looked at the Trans-Am Series for his reference.
Buescher is the third Ford Cup Series driver to test the Next Gen car after Logano and Custer. He finished twenty-first in the 2020 Cup standings in his first season with Roush Fenway Racing, with whom he won the 2015 Xfinity Series championship.
“For starters, the speed, we went through a lot of different changes to try to dial in what we know and get closer on what we don’t know,” said the driver on Wednesday. “To try to have a competitive race and still do it within a reasonable speed. Just worked through a couple little nuance things that are just a lot different, and honestly it’s a little bit of just mind over matter as far as shifting, trying to make sure you keep pulling backwards for the sequential stuff, which was really neat. I really enjoyed using it and got better as it went, learning what it can and can’t do there by the end. The brakes are terrific and I know this isn’t even a short-track setup, but they stop extremely well. There’s not going to be any issues getting to pit road and not having the stopping power, just going to be a matter of not spinning out.
“Obviously Daytona single-car is not the most fun kind of testing, but a lot was learned. I’m glad I did it. Even if it’s as little as going back and looking at the car we have at Roush, that we’ve been working on and sitting in, and trying to figure out what we feel like is the right thing to do from my input where the pedals and stuff need to be. Definitely a good test for me. I’m glad I got to drive the thing before we start testing late next year, I’m glad I got the opportunity.”
Much of the car is surrounded by wiring and sensors to provide data such as telemetry. Buescher commented on social media questions about the interior’s appearance by explaining that while it looks “bad, but it’s because there’s so much in this car that is just for testing purposes. They’re gathering so much information.”
“I think some of the stuff we found in the car is very promising for some of the other tracks we’re going to take it to,” added Probst. “So if anything, we may try to get on a local track up in the Charlotte area for a couple hours to verify what we found here translates to some other track types.
As the Next Gen test car is a generic body, Probst noted that NASCAR is continuing communications with the Cup Series’ three manufacturers Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota on testing in 2021. Tyre manufacturer Goodyear is also expected to work on tyre testings. The Next Gen car will only feature a single lug nut on its wheels, a deviation from the normal five lugs, while the wheels will also be larger.