The NASCAR Cup cars are all-new for the 2022 season. These “Next Gen Cars” feature cutting-edge drivetrains and controls. But the NASCAR Next Gen race cars are not FWD: they retain the V8 engine and RWD layout of the Generation-6 Cup cars.
Are NASCAR Next Gen cars FWD?
No, for the 2022 season NASCAR’s Next Gen cars feature a traditional front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. Future seasons may feature AWD hybrids.
The NASCAR Next Gen car is revolutionizing many aspects of the motorsport. But several key components of the new Cup car are familiar.
Firstly, every Next Gen car is powered by an OEM V8 engine. These are Toyota, Chevrolet, and Ford pushrod V8 engines. They are naturally aspirated, and capable of 600+ horsepower when not fitted with NASCAR’s official restrictor plate.
Secondly, every Next Gen car is a true, three-pedal manual with a floor-mounted shifter connected to a five-speed manual transmisison. That said, these new shifters are sequential manuals. Like ratchet shifters used in drag racing, the shift-lever has two positions: forward downshifts by one gear and backward shifts up.
One major difference is that the Next Gen car’s manual is mounted at the rear of the car, in a transaxle unit. This better balances the race cars weight, just like in the previous three generations of the Corvette.
This transaxle transmission spins two small “halfshafts,” each of which floats on independent rear suspension. The NASCAR Next Gen car is very much RWD.
The differences between Generation-6 and Generation-7 Cup cars
The NASCAR Next Gen car’s layout will make races more exciting. Firstly, the transaxle and independent rear suspension makes room for a full carlength underwing. This new aerodynamic feature rapidly evacuates any air trapped under the car, creating a thousand pounds more downforce.
Have you noticed that the Next Gen cars actually ride higher off the ground than the Generation-6 cars? This is because the teams are not as concerned about air passing beneath the car, it will move through quickly.
This full car underwing ends in an aerodynamic element called the diffuser. This diffuser looks like a series of vertical fins, you can find the same thing on high-end supercars. Its purpose is simple: create less turbulence behind the car. This will make it easier–and safer–for the Next Gen cars to pass one another.
Finally, all this extra downforce means that the Next Gen cars can corner, both left and right, with ease. Teams can use the same car at the superspeedway, medium ovals, and road courses. Its design is much closer to the stock Mustangs and Camaros its supposed to represent.
Future NASCAR Next Gen cars may be AWD
We probably will not see FWD Next Gen cars anytime soon. But AWD NASCAR Cup cars may be on the horizon.
Formula One cars have been AWD for years. This is because Formula One cars are what’s called “through the pavement” hybrids; a traditional internal combustion engine powers their rear wheels while an electric motor/generator powers their front wheels. This allows tighter cornering and regenerative braking to better stretch a tank of gas.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps admitted that he hopes to implement “some type of hybrid engine system” by the sport’s 2024 season.
In a NASCAR conference, Mark Rushbrook of Ford expanded on the idea. He said of the Next Gen Car, “With the bolt-on front clip and rear clip, you can then have a unique front clip for an electric motor version.”
So will 2024 NASCAR cars be AWD hybrids? The Association will probably start with RWD cars with a mild-hybrid system integrated into the transaxle. But we’ll just have to wait and find out. In the meantime, check out our Ultimate Guide to the NASCAR Next Generation car.