The NASCAR Cup Series‘ Next Gen car will make its racing début in the 2022 Daytona 500; being a superspeedway where drafting is key, it was imperative that the sanctioning body learn how the car works in the draft. On Tuesday and Wednesday, eight drivers and their teams participated in a test session around Daytona International Speedway in which they piloted Next Gen cars in a pack and while running the draft.
Of the eight teams, four were Chevrolet-powered: Chip Ganassi Racing (Ross Chastain), Hendrick Motorsports (William Byron), JTG Daugherty Racing (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), Richard Childress Racing (Austin Dillon). Joe Gibbs Racing (Denny Hamlin) was the lone Toyota, while Roush Fenway Racing (Chris Buescher), Stewart-Haas Racing (Cole Custer), and Team Penske (Joey Logano) were the Fords. All but Chastain, Hamlin, and Stenhouse had tested the Next Gen car in the past in single-car sessions using the P3 prototype, which had no manufacturer markings.
While one-driver runs were the norm throughout the testing process, the test was the second to feature multiple cars after a two-man test at Charlotte in October with Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. It was also the second test at Daytona after Buescher took part in a December run; the Daytona Road Course held a session for Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric and IMSA team Action Express Racing last August.
Between testing days, the tapered spacer—which limits speeds on superspeedways akin to its predecessor, the restrictor plate—was reduced in size as was the rear spoiler, dropping the car’s horsepower to 510. The Next Gen car is expected to run at 670 or 550 hp under the rules packages to be set by NASCAR once 2022 arrives, a reduction from the current 750- and 550-hp setups for the Gen-6.
Another noticeable change is the door number placement as it will be moved closer to the front wheel for the seventh-generation vehicle, a change that has proven polarising among fans and industry personnel. While Buescher’s, Byron’s, Logano’s and Stenhouse’s cars kept their numbers directly below the window as usual, Chastain, Custer, and Dillon opted to move them forward. Of course, Chastain’s #42 will not be on the track in 2022 as CGR has been bought out and he will drive the #1 that year instead. Hamlin and JGR elected to ditch the number entirely in favour of a FedEx logo on the side.
Goodyear officials were present to oversee how the tyres fare in pack racing conditions. Additional tyre tests will take place at Darlington Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway in the future, while NASCAR has three more sanctioned tests at the Charlotte Roval on 11/12 October, Charlotte’s oval on 17/18 November, and Phoenix Raceway on 7/8 December.