Set to roll out for its much-anticipated official debut at the 63rd Daytona 500 in February, Nascar’s Next Gen car is in so many ways an unknown entity despite the amount of testing that has taken place, particularly in the off-season lead up to the 2022 Cup Series campaign.
There are a multitude of questions surrounding the Gen 6 car’s successor:
- How does it handle with the change to a rack and pinion steering mechanism?;
- Will the change from 4-speed transmission to 5-speed affect driver’s ability to pass?;
- How will the new car’s increased aerodynamic drag impact driver’s ability to draft on bigger tracks?;
- What will the quality of the racing, ultimately the product being sold here, be like as teams endeavor to figure out a car that is so drastically different from what came before that it is, in many respects, a blank slate in terms of setup?
- But one question remains at the forefront of all others, because it directly affects them: will the Gen 7 car be faster? Let’s take a brief analysis of a few key questions to try and find out.
The Next Gen NASCAR introduced in 2022 is performing at comparable speeds to the previous Gen 6 NASCAR. As teams learn how to adapt to the changes in design, transmission, and aerodynamics it is likely that, in time, the next generation of NASCAR will achieve higher speeds that previous generations.
We take a look at how fast this next gen car might be in the future below.
Is The 2022 Next Gen Car’s Engine The Same As In The Gen 6 Car?
The core engine in place for the Next Gen car is the same: a front-mounted, naturally-aspirated 5.86 L V8 for all three manufacturers. However, the baseline 750 horsepower package can be tweaked through the use of tapered spacers.
These can limit the flow of both fuel and air to the carburetor much like restrictor plates do, only with a nozzle-like opening that negates the debilitating effect upon the engine – as it has been in recent years, in which lower hp and higher hp packages were alternately used at different tracks.
For the 2022 season, at least, Nascar has now set its sights on a 670 hp as the standard, paired with a 4-inch rear spoiler for a “high horsepower, low downforce” package. (Although it must be noted that even with this package the Next Gen car will produce far more downforce than the previous cars).
Will the Next-Gen Car Be More Aerodynamic?
This is a tricky one to answer, but in short: yes. Thanks to a number of new or newly designed components, the new cars will produce more downforce (reportedly up to an incredible 1000 lbs and more) but they will also produce more aerodynamic drag – that is, the effect of turbulent airflow inhibiting top speeds.
New aerodynamic features include flat undercarriage trays used in conjunction with the all-new diffuser to create added downforce by reducing turbulence that occurs in the space beneath the car, as well as hood vents meant to not only assist engine cooling but also use air exhausted from the radiator to help push the car down onto the track.
Other new aerodynamic features for the Gen 7 car are a stepped front splitter and reconfigured side skirts. Driver comments throughout the testing season have suggested that the car may be ultimately more “aero-sensitive,” though what this might entail for the racing only time will tell.
What Features Make It Faster?
As mentioned, the new aerodynamic enhancements will produce a whopping 1000 lbs. more downforce, which can only lead to increased cornering speed, which in turn will likely overcome any losses incurred from aero drag.
Also, Nascar has decided to go with a higher horsepower package for most tracks, superspeedways excluded.
While for the moment speeds are expected to be pretty much on pace with the Gen 6 cars with only a relatively minor deviation one way or the other, it is likely that as teams learn more about the Gen 7 car’s idiosyncrasies and become more adept at setups, speeds will steadily increase as they historically do throughout the course of a generation’s cycle.
It can reasonably be expected that throughout the Gen 7 car’s lifespan fans will see speeds that will surpass those of the sixth-generation cars by a considerable margin, though how the likelihood of a switch to a hybrid engine will affect speeds cannot be guessed at for now.
Is the Next Gen NASCAR Safer?
New safety features have also been added, though they are subtle. The driver’s seat has been moved closer to the center, which should lessen the brunt the driver takes in left-side impacts.
More bars have been added to the roll cage, making it more “robust” to use the words of one official, and additional foam inserts have been placed in both the nose and tail of the car, which should help the car absorb impacts more effectively.
Will the Next Gen 18 Inch Tires Help It Go Faster?
In test the new wheel with its one lug will take about half a second to tighten, where as previously in took just under a second with the 5 lugs, so although minimal there will be some time saved one pit crews get to grips with the change.
There will be more tire on the road so grip should improve. Dale Earnhardt Jr is quoted as saying
So while possible not at the top end on the straights, but we can expect to see some faster cornering as drivers get used to the bracks and extra grip they have in the car.
How Does the Next Gen Car Handle in Comparison to Gen 6?
In earlier test sessions drivers expressed concern over the new car’s handling characteristics, with one noting that thanks to the new steering mechanism, steering was “surgical” in comparison to not only the Gen 6 car but to every stock car that has come before.
Driver of the no.8 RCR Chevrolet Tyler Reddick (who had a minor incident in the Daytona tests) said “the cars are on edge,” while 2018 champion Joey Logano quipped “it gets pretty sketchy…and you’re white-knuckling it all the time, even to go straight.”
Fortunately for drivers and race fans alike, the situation appears to be much improved as testing progresses. Driver Daniel Suarez has been quoted as saying that the car “is in a whole different place” from where it was at the Charlotte tests a month prior.
Suarez added, “the car is driving better, in traffic, it’s much better.” He also added that he thinks Nascar is headed in the right direction with the car. Out-of-the-gate stumbles are not uncommon when introducing a new race car,
In fact it is more likely the rule than the exception, especially when one considers just what a technological sea-change the Next Gen car really is, and how much of a departure it is from the stock car of the past.
Ultimately, the answers to these questions remain to be discovered. With so many of the new car’s kinks to be worked out, it will be some time before its true potential is fully unlocked. However current testing, the details we know, and drivers, well some drivers, comments suggest that the Next Gen NASCAR has the potential to go faster than it is at the moment.
One thing is for sure though: this year’s Nascar Cup Series campaign will be an interesting one.