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The 2022 cup season will feature the NASCAR Next Generation car. The all-new vehicles feature advanced aerodynamics and suspension. But early test drivers complained that the NASCAR Next Gen cabins get too hot to drive. NASCAR officials and teams are experimenting with solutions to the in-car heat, but some drivers dismiss them as “band-aids.”

Drivers got too hot in the first NASCAR Next Generation car test

This is a photo of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in his Next Generation #47 car during NASCAR Next Gen car testing at Daytona in Florida. Nascar Tries To Keep Drivers From Cooking Like ‘Turkeys’ Inside the Next Gen Race Car | James Gilbert/Getty Images
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in his #47 Next Gen car | James Gilbert/Getty Images

The NASCAR Next Generation car creates roughly a thousand pounds more downforce thanks to all-new aerodynamics. One new aerodynamic element is hood-top air vents, so air exiting the radiator flows over the roof and pushes the car downward. 

The Next Gen car also features a split exhaust that lets the engine breathe easier and, according to Bubba Wallace, “sounds really cool.”

The improved aerodynamics will make the 2022 NASCAR races more exciting. But it comes at a cost. The air flowing out of the engine bay and across the windshield heats the cabin. In addition, the exhaust running under the left and right sides of the floor pass through boxed channels. These channels reach temperatures of 450 degrees. The exhaust is cooking the cockpit.

After a Next Gen car test, team FedEx’s Denny Hamlin said, “I can’t express how hot it was.” The driver-owner is concerned about his safety, as well as his team’s. He added, “It’s a big, big concern.” 

NASCAR is tweaking the new car to cool it down

These are NASCAR team members trying to cool down the Next Generation prototype. The NASCAR Next Gen car is in the garage in North Carolina. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
NASCAR is trying to cool down the Next Gen prototype | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

During the Charlotte Roval Next Gen tests in mid-October, NASCAR set four teams up to test different potential cooling solutions.

Some test cars made better use of existing window areas. These teams installed additional venting to the windshield or to other window areas. These vents ranged from slots in the front or rear glass to additional ductwork.

Other teams took the airflow a step further. They installed vents to increase the flow of air between the chassis and the NASCAR Next Generation car’s under-tray.

One of the most drastic solutions NASCAR tried was a rework of the exhaust system. Because the exhaust pipe running beneath the driver’s seat is heating the cockpit floor, technicians set at least one car up with short exhaust pipes that exit just behind the front wheel-well.

 The Next Gen cars may need a major redesign to cool down

This is a pack of NASCAR Next Generation Cars participating in the drafting test at the Daytona International Speedway. Nascar Tries To Keep Drivers From Cooking Like ‘Turkeys’ Inside the Next Gen Race Car. | James Gilbert/Getty Images
A Next Gen drafting test at Daytona | James Gilbert/Getty Images

NASCAR’s Next Gen Rearview Camera Divides Drivers

NASCAR is optimistic about the progress made on car heat. But drivers see the current measures as a stop-gap solution. 

Some pointed out that during the October Next Gen testing in Charlotte, the weather was overcast with a high of 70-degrees. That is a far cry from summer racing conditions in Daytona, Florida.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney said of the heat, “You’ve still got to get the things to where you know, you’re not cooking turkeys inside the race car.”

During the tests in Charlotte, Hamlin said of the in-car heat, “we’re just trying to work through that and figure out what they can do to kind of put a band-aid on it for the time being.”

Hamlin admitted, “It’s difficult because it’s the way the car is designed.” He concluded, “I think you’re gonna have to really make some big changes to it, something that will allow us to finish races without having major issues.” We hope that NASCAR finds a way to keep the Next Generation cars cool–and safe–for the exciting 2022 Cup season.