NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR reveals Next Gen Cup car

4 Mins read
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

After over a year of testing, the future of the NASCAR Cup Series has finally been revealed. On Wednesday, NASCAR formally introduced the seventh-generation Next Gen car of each of the three manufacturers: the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Ford Mustang, and Toyota TRD Camry. While the three will still utilise the same vehicles as during the Gen-6 era, NASCAR sought to make them closer resemble their street counterparts with the Next Gen model. The cars will begin racing in 2022.

It is a bit of a cliché for NASCAR to attempt to make stock cars look more like production cars (to mixed results), a proclamation that most notably resonates with the comments made when the Gen-6 was revealed ahead of the 2013 season. In hopes of committing to this goal, the Next Gen cars feature radically different changes from its predecessors, from the switch to a single lug nut for tyres to the introduction of an independent rear suspension and five-speed sequential transmission. While not a carbon copy, many of these features are also present on the road.

“A lot of work has been done behind the scenes to make sure this Next Gen Mustang remains relevant to our customers,” Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook said. “As the automotive industry continues to change, we’ll have the ability to keep up in the racing world without having to go through a complete overhaul or redesign of the car. This is something we’ve been waiting for and we’re glad the time has finally arrived.”

“The Next Gen Camaro has a much stronger link to the production Camaro ZL1 in terms of styling integration, improved proportions and relevant technologies,” Chevrolet director of NASCAR Eric Warren added. “From an engineering standpoint, this is a seismic shift. It’s a completely new car that brings with it a lot of opportunity from a technical standpoint.”

Each car has its own nuances to differentiate it from its counterparts. Toyota collaborated with Calty Design to incoporate street Camry elements into the stock car, a strategy that has been used since the start of the Gen-6 period.

“For Toyota and TRD, we’re committed to the principle of continuous improvement and we believe that’s reflected in this Next Gen TRD Camry,” said TRD president David Wilson. “While we know the margins available with this new race car are smaller when it comes to adjustability, we know our race team partners and our team at TRD look forward to the challenge of learning about this car and discovering the performance opportunities that will help put the TRD Camry into Victory Lane.”

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Hybridisation, while not full electricity, of the engine is also a possibility in the future in an effort to attract new manufacturers. Until that happens, NASCAR will continue utilising the traditional V8 engine, and the engine air intake has been moved to the front grille from the cowl. Many noted during tests that the car sounds “throatier” than the Gen-6, a byproduct of the exhaust pipes being spread out on multiple sides rather than just one.

Race packages like engine horsepower and spoiler size will continue to vary based on track, with 550 and 670 horsepower likely being the intended numbers. The lower horsepower continues a trend of decreasing speeds in favour of closer racing, which has raised skepticism among fans and media; the 2021 package features 550- and 750-hp setups.

Other notable changes include the shift to rack and pinion steering and larger, eighteen-inch forged aluminum wheels (originally fifteen). The body is symmetrical and made of composite material to allow for durability, while the cockpit seat is moved slightly closer to the center and roll bars have been added for safety reasons. Dirty air, a concept that has plagued Gen-6 races in recent times, hopes to be minimised with the use of an underwing and rear diffuser.

Many of the changes evoke comparisons to sports and touring cars such as GT3 or the Australian Supercars Championship. Neither parallel would be stretches either as NASCAR owns IMSA and the France family runs decorated IMSA team Action Express Racing, who participated in Next Gen testing in 2020. NASCAR executives also visited Australia in the past to observe the Supercars for inspiration.

It is also possible that NASCAR introduces a clamp-on refueling hose similar to what is seen in open-wheel and sports car racing. The single lug nut, which NASCAR hopes would reduce the need for lug nut penalties that result in points penalties and crew chief suspensions, is also a common feature in those disciplines; Hendrick Motorsports provided crewmen to Action Express for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona to let them learn about such pit stops ahead of the Next Gen’s arrival.

With these in mind, one can easily expect the cars to perform better on road courses than previous generations; Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. provided positive comments when they tested the cars at the Charlotte Roval in November. This also reflects a move toward road courses in general: the 2021 Cup schedule features a record seven such tracks, while a potential street circuit has been entertained by the sanctioning body. While the latter has yet to be realised, a Chicago street course is on the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series calendar. The sim racing league will technically mark the Next Gen car’s first time in action for Wednesday night’s Darlington event.

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Numerous companies are involved in the car’s production, many of which also contributed to the Gen-6 while others are new to the Cup Series. Famed open-wheel chassis constructor Dallara is building radiator ducts for the car after previously being rumoured as its chassis maker, and that position is instead given to short track-savvy Five Star Race Car Bodies. McLaren returns to develop the digital dashboard and ECU, while the American division of German-based BBS Kraftfahrzeugtechnik will be the wheel vendor. Xtrac Inc., who has a background in rallycross and sports cars, is behind the sequential transmission and driveshaft.

By receiving parts from multiple suppliers, the Next Gen hopes to reduce costs for teams and level the playing field. While it will certainly be expensive to make the transition from sixth to seventh generation, NASCAR aims for the price tag to decrease over time.

The car will début at the 2022 Busch Clash on the Daytona Road Course, with its first points race coming at the Daytona 500.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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