The seventh-generation NASCAR Cup Series vehicle, the Next Gen car, will be formally unveiled on Wednesday, 5 May. At the reveal in Charlotte, North Carolina, the three manufacturers Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota will present their specific body designs for the car ahead of their début in 2022.
In the meantime, Tyler Reddick participated in a two-day Goodyear tyre test at Darlington Raceway in which he piloted the Next Gen car. Officially the P3 prototype and featuring a generic body like previous test cars, the vehicle ultimately ended the session with some scrapes after Reddick brushed the wall. Nevertheless, the test worked to provide Goodyear with tyre data in preparation for 2022.
“The goal is to leave here with Goodyear having enough information to make a decision on the tyre for next year’s events with the Next Gen car,” said NASCAR R&D manager Brandon Thomas prior to the second day of testing on Wednesday. “Day 1 has been very good. A lot of short run stuff where they can test a lot of options. Just looking towards what’s the grip level like, what’s the fall-off like, what’s the feel of the car comparatively.”
Next Gen tests have taken place at a variety of circuits such as short tracks (Austin Dillon at Richmond in October 2019 and Bubba Wallace there in March), one-mile ovals (Joey Logano at Phoenix in December 2019 and Cole Custer in August 2020), 1.5-mile ovals (Erik Jones at Homestead in January 2020), superspeedways (Chris Buescher at Daytona in December 2020), and infield road courses (Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. at the Charlotte Roval in November 2020). Reddick’s test marked the car’s first at the famed egg-shaped Darlington. IMSA team Action Express Racing has also contributed to the testing process with their own session at the Daytona Road Course last August, along with providing a car for the Roval test.
“I heard how much different this car was, and I wanted to see it for myself,” Reddick said. “Darlington is one of the top three to four most challenging tracks we get around. It might be the most difficult. This track in turns one and two is different than three and four. I really wanted to get to drive this car and see what this thing’s like at a track that I’m comfortable at. I have a good understanding of this track, and what it takes to get rubbered in and what direction to go to hopefully find us the best tyre.
“One of the obvious differences is the tyre profile and the 18-inch wheels versus the 15-inch wheels we have on the current Cup car and all the other cars. Understanding that feel and knowing where the limit is on a tyre with less sidewall profile, especially at Darlington which is already really hard to get a hold of.”
Thomas added, “When we sit down with Goodyear, they really laid out a set of tracks they wanted to test at. What makes a track important to Goodyear is the loading and the relative roughness of the surface and also, to a degree, how that surface reflects other surfaces on our schedule. When you come to a track like Darlington, where tyre falloff and loading is very similar to a track like Homestead, this track doesn’t give them everything they need to know about Homestead, but gives them a direction of what could work there.”