The most comprehensive test of the NASCAR Cup Series‘ Next Gen car to date began on Monday as part of a two-day session at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. Held a day after the Cup race, twenty-two drivers in twenty-one cars from seventeen teams took to the track in their seventh-generation cars set to debut in 2022.
Prior tests have usually featured just one or two cars, with the largest prior run being an eight-driver test at Daytona in September. The Roval also hosted the first multi-driver test in November with Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr.; while the latter returned for the two-day session, Busch’s Chip Gansssi Racing team-mate Ross Chastain took over the CGR slot. Such a decision is reasonable as CGR is being sold to Trackhouse Racing Team in 2022 (who was present with Daniel Suárez), whom Chastain will join, while Busch heads to 23XI Racing who had Bubba Wallace turning laps. Also accounting for 2022 driver changes was Wood Brothers Racing as Austin Cindric was in the #21; while Cindric will drive Team Penske‘s #2 next year, he was initially scheduled to be in the #21 as a replacement for impending free agent Matt DiBenedetto. Brad Keselowski, the current Penske #2 driver who is set to depart the organisation after 2021, did not take part while fellow allies Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney did.
Chase Briscoe set the fastest lap time of 1:20.219 at 104.115 mph. By comparison, William Byron won the pole at the 2019 Roval race (the most recent edition to feature qualifying) at 1:20.932 and 103.198 mph (both would have been the second-fastest among the Next Gen testers). Byron, who tested the Next Gen at Daytona and in a single-car session at Fontana in March 2020, did not take part as Hendrick Motorsports placed Sunday winner Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, the latter being the Roval winner for the two years prior, in one car.
Joey Hand, a Ford factory driver and sports car veteran who made his NASCAR début on Sunday, piloted the Rick Ware Racing #51. The Next Gen car has drawn comparisons to sports and touring cars, especially for its improved road course performance compared to its predecessors and similar elements to such vehicles. It is thus unsurprising that A.J. Allmendinger found himself adjusting nicely to the car as the three-time and newly crowned Xfinity Series Roval winner set the fourth-best time.
Two new teams for the 2022 season also made their track “débuts” as Team Hezeberg fielded the #27 for Whelen Euro Series star Loris Hezemans and GMS Racing for Ty Dillon. Hezemans is savvy with road courses as the Euro Series currently races exclusively on them, while Dillon won a stage at the Roval in 2020. Former F1 champion-turned-Euro Series regular Jacques Villeneuve will take over the Hezeberg #27 for the second day of testing.
Later large-scale tests are planned for 17/18 November on Charlotte’s oval configuration, 14/15 December at Phoenix Raceway, and 11/12 January at Daytona International Speedway. To prepare for the Next Gen car’s unofficial race début in the exhibition Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a tyre test will be held at Bowman Gray Stadium. Camping World Truck Series regular Stewart Friesen will test the Next Gen at Wythe Raceway on 16 November to see its capabilities on dirt ahead of the Bristol Dirt Race. Although Friesen is not racing in the Cup Series in 2022, he was selected due to his dirt experience and his status as a Truck full-timer allowing NASCAR to safely disqualify him from running Bristol Dirt since the sanctioning body does not want drivers to have an unfair advantage via more track experience. Such a rule had prohibited DiBenedetto from running the Xfinity race on the Indianapolis Road Course in 2020 as he had tested there for NASCAR.
Other fan and media discussions surrounding the car included the polarising door number push closer to the front wheel. If it is any consolation, NASCAR officials also confirmed cars may use chrome numbering provided they have enough contrast to the rest of the livery.
|Position||Number||Driver||Team||Manufacturer||Best Time||Margin||Best Speed|
|1||4||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||1:20.219||Leader||104.115|
|2||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||1:21.288||+ 1.069||102.746|
|3||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||1:21.716||+ 1.497||102.208|
|4||16||A.J. Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||1:22.022||+ 1.803||101.826|
|5||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||1:22.269||+ 2.050||101.521|
|6||5||Kyle Larson/Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||1:22.431||+ 2.212||101.321|
|7||14||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||1:22.472||+ 2.253||101.271|
|8||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||1:22.645||+ 2.426||101.059|
|9||21||Austin Cindric||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||1:22.662||+ 2.443||101.038|
|10||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||1:22.725||+ 2.506||100.961|
|11||51||Joey Hand||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||1:22.740||+ 2.521||100.943|
|12||43||Erik Jones||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||1:22.775||+ 2.556||100.900|
|13||27||Loris Hezemans||Team Hezeberg||Ford||1:23.120||+ 2.901||100.481|
|14||00||Kaz Grala||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||1:23.294||+ 3.075||100.271|
|15||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||1:23.369||+ 3.150||100.181|
|16||42||Ross Chastain||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||1:23.566||+ 3.347||99.945|
|17||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||1:23.588||+ 3.369||99.919|
|18||17||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||1:23.771||+ 3.552||99.700|
|19||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||1:24.074||+ 3.855||99.341|
|20||94||Ty Dillon||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||1:24.143||+ 3.924||99.260|
|21||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||1:24.167||+ 3.948||99.231|