Does the Next Gen NASCAR Car Still Have a Gear Stick?

The new Next Gen NASCAR transmission is an all-new sequential manual transaxle. This unit will change several key aspects of NASCAR, including how the drivers shift. The Next Gen car still has a gear stick shift lever, but it moves in a very new way.

What kind of transmission is in a NASCAR car?

The Next Gen NASCAR cars have a sequential manual transaxle: the Xtrac P1334. The unit is housed in the rear axle differential. It offers five forward gears, but a sequential shift lever with two positions: one for upshift and one for downshift.

Red race car moving fast down a track.
Bubba Wallace’s #23 Next Gen Toyota | James Gilbert/Getty Images

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That’s a lot of tech jargon, so let’s break down what exactly this Next Gen transmission is. The new car has a front-engine, rear-transaxle layout. This means that the transmission is integrated into the rear axle’s differential. “Sequential manual” refers to how the driver shifts gears.

The Next Gen NASCAR car is what’s called a spec chassis: a single supplier builds each component for all of the teams. NASCAR made this rule in an effort to level the playing field and keep costs low. The transaxle unit is the P1334 built by Xtrac.

What is different about the Next Gen NASCAR?

The NASCAR Next Gen transmission will make the Cup cars nimbler and quicker to shift. This unit also improves downforce by making room for a car-length underwing.

NASCAR Next Gen cars racing | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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Moving the 170 pound transmission unit to the rear of the Next Gen NASCAR car better balances the powertrain’s weight and helps the car handle better. This is why the past three generations of the Chevrolet Corvette have been front-engine, rear-transaxle cars.

Some front-engine, rear-transaxle cars have a traditional, H-pattern manual shifter. But NASCAR also took this opportunity to shift the Cup cars to a sequential manual. The Next Gen car still has a floor-mounted gear stick. But this shift lever only has a forward and backward position.

In the 2022 NASCAR Cup season, drivers pull this lever backward to shift up one gear, or push it forward to downshift.

Will the Next Gen NASCAR have a clutch?

The Next Gen NASCAR transmission is a true three-pedal manual with a clutch pedal. That said, NASCAR drivers rarely use their clutch pedal after they have shifted into first gear anyway.

NASCAR Next Gen cars racing | Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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The NASCAR Next Gen cars all feature a familiar, pushrod V8. These naturally-aspirated engines are built by the OEMs, so they differ between the Ford, Chevy, and Toyota stock cars.

At the back of the Next Gen’s V8 is a similar racing clutch to the Generation-6 cars. The driver uses a standard clutch pedal to actuate this clutch, usually just to get into first gear.

When the clutch is not engaged, the Next Gen car’s V8 spins a high-speed “propshaft” that in turn spins the transaxle at the rear of the car. The transaxle transfers this force through one of five forward gears, or one reverse. Then the transaxle spins two half-shafts which drive the rear wheels.

Even though NASCAR Next Gen cars do have a clutch pedal, most drivers simply match engine RPMs to the car’s speed to shift during a race.

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