Compared to something like Formula 1, NASCAR may seem crude or old-fashioned to some. However, in recent years the racing series has started fighting back against this perception of stagnation. Leading this charge is the NASCAR Next Gen race car, which is a genuine paradigm shift where stock cars are concerned. And now, the wraps are off the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
The NASCAR Next Gen Cup car “is a revolution” for stock car racing, Road & Track says
Up until now, NASCAR’s Cup series stock cars have followed a simple formula, Road & Track explains. Although the race cars evolved, the current-gen ‘Gen 6’ cars still use live rear axles and four-speed manual transmissions. The rear suspension is based on ‘60s pickup tech, Autoweek points out. And every manufacturer and team involved developed their own parts at great expense.
That all changes with the NASCAR Next Gen Cup Series car. For the first time, the Cup cars are ‘spec cars,’ as in, they’re built according to standardized specifications, Autoweek explains. Apart from the engine and bodywork, every part comes from one of 30 different vendors and suppliers. That keeps costs down, which also prevents the sport from becoming a funding war, something that’s repeatedly plagued F1. This levels the playing field and gives smaller teams a better fighting chance.
The Gen 7 cars are new inside and out
However, that’s not the biggest change the NASCAR Next Gen, aka the ‘Gen 7’ car brings. Engine aside, the Gen 7 car “is different in every conceivable way,” R&T says. And that statement applies to everything from the bodywork to the suspension.
Starting with the exterior, the NASCAR Next Gen car has carbon-fiber-reinforced-plastic body panels, rather than metal ones. And the body is symmetrical, as well as wider, lower, and shorter. It also has a redesigned aero package. Plus, instead of multi-lug 15” steel wheels, the Next Gen cars have center-lock 18” BBS aluminum ones. Those bigger wheels also come with wider tires (specifically, Goodyear Eagles) and accommodate larger brakes.
Besides the new wheels, the NASCAR Next Gen car also rides on new suspension. No more live rear axle, the Gen 7 car has independent rear suspension, Car and Driver notes. The Ohlins dampers are also new and more adjustable. And rather than recirculating-ball steering, the Next Gen Cup car has modern rack-and-pinion steering. Also, there’s a five-speed sequential manual with reverse in place of the old four-speed manual.
Finally, the NASCAR Next Gen car still has a tubular-steel chassis. But it’s now designed as a center section with bolt-on subframes to lower construction and repair costs. Plus, the center section has more roll bars, R&T notes.
The NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro looks even more like the road-going ZL1
Up until recently, the NASCAR Next Gen Cup cars have only been seen in prototype form. Recently, though, the three participating automakers—Chevrolet, Toyota, and Ford—showed off what their Gen 7 cars look like. And for Chevy, that car is the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
One of the goals for the NASCAR Next Gen program was to make the Cup cars look more like their road-going namesakes. Hence the symmetrical and redesigned body. And in the case of the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, overall, it’s mission accomplished, MotorTrend reports.
To be sure, the Gen 7 Cup car isn’t identical to the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on sale in dealers. The grille and headlights, for example, are stickers. And the road-going ZL1 doesn’t have side-exit exhausts or a fully-stripped-out interior. But at least visually, the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Cup car gives the NASCAR racer a more ‘stock’ look.
When will viewers get to see these race cars in action?
As of this writing, none of the NASCAR Next Gen cars, Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 included, have competed in a race. But the wait is almost over. All three are scheduled to hit the track at the 2022 Daytona 500 on February 20th, 2022.
However, even after the Next Gen cars start racing for real, they won’t be done evolving. Although the Gen 6 cars’ V8s carry over, NASCAR is working on getting the Gen 7 cars hybridized. There’s no official word regarding when this will happen. But it’s still a sign that NASCAR isn’t stagnant.
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