NASCAR Next Gen Car vs the Old Sixth-Gen Car: All the Differences

NASCAR is switching to the all-new Next Gen car for the 2022 season. The new race car spec debuted at the Clash at the Coliseum in LA and its first official race will be the 2022 Daytona 500. Here is how the NASCAR Next Gen car differs from the old sixth-gen Cup cars.

2021 Generation-6 Cup Cars2022 Next-Gen Cup Cars
EngineNaturally-aspirated V8Naturally-aspirated V8
Transmission4-speed manual5-speed sequential manual
Rear axleSolid live rear axleTransaxle and independent rear suspension
Body stylesTwo: superspeedway and short trackOne design for all tracks

One NASCAR Next Gen car can win from the Daytona 500 to Watkins Glen

A NASCAR race car parked on the edge of the Daytona Speedway, the stands visible in the distance.
The NASCAR Next Gen car at Daytona International Speedway | James Gilbert/Getty Images

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Competing in NASCAR has grown more expensive every year. After 2012, Dodge decided to cut its losses and exit the sport. Then the Furniture Racing team won the 2017 championship but went bankrupt in 2018. It was obvious: The sport’s officials needed to keep the cost for teams down.

One significant NASCAR expense is maintaining two separate styles of car. That’s right. every team must build one car for mid-length tracks and road courses. They must also make a specialized superspeedway car. So one major way the sport will change in 2022 is that the teams will race a single car at every track.

For this reason, the new NASCAR Next Gen Cup cars must be very versatile vehicles. Unlike the 2021 superspeedway cars, the 2022 Cup Cars have symmetrical bodies designed to turn both left and right with ease.

Without a symmetrical spoiler and body, the new cars must create 1,000 pounds more downforce than their predecessors to compete at Talladega and Daytona’s huge tri-ovals. To create a road-course car capable of Daytona speeds, NASCAR needed to re-engineer the race car completely.

NASCAR’s Next Gen is a a classic V8 and an all-new transmission

Four crew members roll the Next Gen Chevy race car out of a garage and onto a NASCAR track.
The #24 Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro | James Gilbert/Getty Images

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The one aspect of the Generation-6 car NASCAR did not redesign was its engine. The NASCAR Next Gen cars will have traditional, normally-aspirated pushrod V8s. Unlike the frame and drivetrain, these engines will be built by the OEMs: Ford, Toyota, and Chevrolet.

NASCAR did redesign one major aspect of the 2022 Cup car: its transmission. The Generation-6 cars featured a four-speed manual transmission with a classic “H” shift pattern. The Next Gen cars have what’s called a sequential manual transaxle transmission with five speeds.

A sequential manual is similar to a “ratchet shifter” used in drag racing. It still features a floor-mounted shift lever. But this lever has two positions: The driver presses it forward to downshift and pulls it back to shift up.

The most important aspect of the new transmission is its transaxle placement. NASCAR is not fixing the transmission to the rear of the engine. Instead, the transmission is part of a transaxle assembly at the back of the car.

The Next Gen car’s advanced aerodynamics

Birdseye view of three stock cars drafting on a race track during NASCAR's Next Gen car testing.
Austin Dillon, William Byron, and Chris Buescher test Next Gen cars | James Gilbert/Getty Images

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The NASCAR Next Gen car’s transaxle placement changes every aspect of the vehicle. Firstly, it better balances the car’s weight. That’s why Chevrolet has used a similar drivetrain layout for the last three generations of the Corvette.

Secondly, the transaxle spins two half-shafts instead of a single driveshaft. These half-shafts each float on their own independent rear suspension. The car’s independent rear suspension allows teams to set the camber of each wheel independently for steeply-banked tracks such as Bristol Motor Speedway.

Finally, the car’s independent rear suspension allows NASCAR’s first full-car underwing to stretch from the nose to the rear bumper. This underwing, ending in diffuser fins, evacuates air from beneath the car. The underwing creates an incredible amount of down-force, keeping the NASCAR Next Gen car glued to the track, even while corning at high speeds.

Learn about other major changes to NASCAR’s Next Gen car in the video below:

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