The sport of NASCAR is built on tradition. So when the Association first announced an all-new Next Gen race car for the 2022 season, many fans were hesitant about the change. But as the Association tests the new cars and drivers begin to practice with them, it appears that the Next Gen NASCAR cars will make the 2022 season much more competitive–and exciting.
Single-supplier cars level the playing field
In the past, NASCAR teams have built their race cars, to Association Specs, on their own. For each component, the teams chose from a range of racing equipment manufacturers.
Some manufacturers upsold the NASCAR teams. Others built components that wore out quickly. Seeking a competitive edge, teams spend more money on components each year. This spending war has proven unsustainable.
NASCAR received a wake-up call when Furniture Racing won the championship in 2017 then ran out of money the following year. As a result, the Association designed the Next Gen car to reduce teams’ expenses.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps said, “The costs associated with the vehicle will be lower.”
Phelps specified that the new cars would reduce costs in two ways. First, the team’s investment, “in terms of absolute cost,” will be lower. NASCAR accomplished this by selecting a single supplier for each component of the Next Gen race car. The Association instructed the suppliers to build durable components. They also insisted the new vehicle be easy to disassemble and repair. The only difference between various Next Gen cars will be their engines and body panels.
In addition, the Next Gen car will better adapt to the wide range of tracks that NASCAR races. The new design accomplishes this through symmetrical aerodynamics and independent rear suspension. For this reason, Phelps said costs will be lower in terms of “the number of cars that will be necessary to run and run up front.”
Teams with less sponsorship money will, conceivably, have a car that can compete with the wealthiest teams. So this year’s underdogs may be next year’s champions.
The Next Gen cars will pass more often
While discussing NASCAR’s Next Gen car, Phelps also said, “I think the racing is going to be better based on the aerodynamics of the vehicle.”
The current, sixth-generation NASCAR race cars create lots of turbulence. The Next Gen race cars aim to provide more downforce and create less turbulence. This will make them faster and easier to pass.
Next Gen NASCAR cars will have several aerodynamic advantages over their predecessors. First and foremost, the new vehicle will expel the air used to cool the engine out of the top of the hood, pressing the car more firmly into the track.
In addition, the new car’s transaxle with independent rear suspension allows for NASCAR’s first full car-length underwing. This underwing, combined with a rear bumper diffuser, quickly evacuates air from beneath the vehicle while creating minimum turbulence.
The resulting Next Gen NASCAR car will be more stable at high speeds. In addition, it will sit higher off the ground and have enough suspension travel to handle irregularities in the pavement or jostles from other racers.
The improved aerodynamics will also mean the Next Gen cars will create less turbulence. With less of a vortex behind the lead cars, it will be much easier for other drivers to pass them. 2022 is shaping up to be an exhilarating NASCAR season, full of battles for position.
2022 will be a ‘wildcard’ NASCAR season
Alex Bowman is the driver of the #48 Hendrick Motorsports Camaro. He tested the Next Gen NASCAR car and was impressed with its capabilities. Bowman also said, “It’s going to take some getting used to; every aspect of it is different.”
The drivers and their crews will have to adapt to a very new vehicle. For example, the Next Gen car boasts swappable aerodynamic elements that the teams can adjust for different tracks. But teams will have to develop new strategies as they tinker with these.
The new NASCAR cars also feature independent rear suspension. This means that they can adjust the camber of their rear wheels to highly banked tracks, like Bristol Motor Speedway. This will necessitate brand new car setups and new driving techniques.
In the past, the NASCAR team with their car best “dialed-in” often won the race. Teams with experienced crews and crew chiefs had a leg up. In 2022, all the teams will be reinventing the rules, and experience will not necessarily spell success. As different teams adapt at different rates, 2022 could be one of the most exciting “wildcard” seasons in years.