The seventh iteration in the long evolution of the Nascar Cup Series stock car, the “Next Gen” car is set to finally make its prime-time debut in February 2022. It comes after the initially-planned 2021 debut was shelved due to complication caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic.
On average there is a new generation NASCAR introduced every 11 years. It has been 8 years since the unveiling of the gen 6 NASCAR, and 5 years between gen 5 and gen 6 cars. Advancements in technology, greater competition, reduced team costs and future proofing the sport are reasons why the Next Gen NASCAR is needed.
You can rest assured that fans, sponsors, and of course Nascar organisers will be watching with keen interest – and perhaps a little apprehension – when the series hits the all-new quarter mile at the L.A. Memorial Stadium for the first time in the unofficial season opener: the Busch Lite Clash.
Although the whether the change is needed is still being debated, loudly amongst fans, the car is now here. We take a look at some of the reasons why the Next Gen NASCAR is being introduced now.
What Concerns Are There About the Next Gen NASCAR?
The Next Gen NASCAR has been a long time coming, and the road to its arrival has been paved with much speculation as well as a few setbacks, dramas and oh so many opinions. However even with a full year extra there seem to still be concerns about the readiness of the Next Gen Car to compete,
Even going in to the weeks leading up to the NASCAR season opener in Las Vegas teams are facing an unexpected shortage of Next Gen cars and parts . This is likely caused by supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic.
Hopefully this can be rectified before the season starts, as there is nothing like a shortage to drive up prices, and that’s certainly going to defeat the object of making the car cheaper.
Concerns over the car’s safety, drivability and its potential to produce the kind of competitive racing fans have come to expect have also been raised. These are unlikely to be answered until the first few races, however NASCAR drivers feedback so far has been mixed, and really, they are the ones who know what they are talking about.
In early summer of 2021 rumors began to circulate that the arrival of the new car would be pushed back as late as 2024 in the wake of news that crash test dummies had received what would be considered fatal damage during testing. However, Nascar brushed of the rumors as just that and continued as scheduled.
One question remains for those who are familiar with the NASCAR but don’t follow it closely: what is the point? Why make the switch to the radically different Next Gen NASCAR with all the unknowns that come with it?
And more specifically, why now in 2022? we take a look at some of the reasons why the Next Gen NASCAR is being introduced now, in 2022.Embed from Getty Images
When Was the Next-Gen NASCAR Car Planned?
Initial discussions about the next evolution of Nascar’s Cup racer began in January 2019. The focus topics of the initial briefings concerned the following:
- cost-cutting measures as a means of lowering the barrier to entry for current and potential team owners.
- designing a more competitive car in terms of parity among teams and increasing competition.
- and also manufacturer relevance i.e., designing a racecar that would be more recognizable vis a vis its production counterpart.
- Future proofing the car for potentially large changes in the future.
NASCAR appears to have been concerned about the spiraling costs required to compete at the top levels of the sport. In one of the few motor races that makes concerted efforts to level the chances it seemed that the more money a team had the greater the chances.
This is fairly common in most motorsports, but the entire point of ‘stock’ racing is to put emphasis on the driver and the car. Leveling this out seemed to be a priority.
The design of the cars allows for less turbulence and more passing opportunities, which we go into below, and they also look much more similar to their road legal counterparts, which may ( i am speculating here) help the manufacturers.
There are other reasons which we won’t go into in any depth as they tend to cause arguments, but one of expanding fanbase is often cited.
Testing of the Next Gen NASCAR
The first prototype saw the track in October 2019 at Richmond Raceway. The car was tested again in December of that same year at Phoenix, Az. The Next gen was tested again in January 2020 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, and once again in March at Auto Club Speedway in southern California.
When the Covid-19 pandemic reached the U.S., Nascar suspended further racing activity throughout the spring, however testing of the Gen 7 car proceeded even as Nascar announced on April 2 that the new car’s rollout would be delayed a year until 2022.
The car was officially unveiled on May 5 2021 at the industry’s home track, Charlotte Motor Speedway, with drivers Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano on tap to represent the three current manufacturers. In will be 9 months later when it takes its first competitive lap.
Why Introduce The Next Gen NASCAR Now?
There are reasons we highlighted above about why the Next gen car is being introduced now, and we expand on these below.
- To be sure, cutting the cost of team ownership was one of the major concerns with the development of the Next Gen car, especially with the skyrocketing cost of charters. We have some of the costs involved in running not only a cuperies team but also Xfinity, Truck and ARCA teams and the costs are truly eye watering.
- Gen 7 brings with it not only a newly designed racing machine, but also a dramatic shift in the way teams operate. Race Car production will now be much more consolidated in the sense that teams will now be buying many parts from third party suppliers.
- For instance, all teams will be purchasing chassis from a single-source supplier rather than building their own (though they will still be manufacturing their own engines, or in the case of “smaller” teams purchasing them from others).
- The same will apply to many other components, though as mentioned engines as well as body shells will be exceptions. This will greatly cut costs to teams, which will also facilitate the true intended purpose of closing the competitive gap between the “Big Four” (Hendrick, SHR, Gibbs and Penske) and the rest of the field.
- Equalizing the financial edge the bigger teams have over underfunded ones and ultimately creating a better product – that is, the racing – for Nascar. This will come at the unfortunate cost, however, of many Nascar-related jobs becoming obsolete.
- The Gen 7 car was also conceived with an eye toward the future, meaning that it has been designed with adaptability in mind – an effort by Nascar to evolve with changing technology without necessitating a complete redesign of its race car.
- Specifically, the Next Gen car features the ability to add a hybrid/electrification aspect, suggesting that stock car racing may have plans to go carbon neutral before the end of the Gen 7 life cycle.
What Are Some of the Differences Between Next Gen and Gen 6?
Well this question warrants an article on its own! Which we are still debating if we should wait till the start of the season to release. However 5 of the more important differences between Gen 6 and the Next Gen NASCARs are detailed below.
The Gen 7 car features a host of changes relative to its outgoing predecessor.
- These include larger 18” wheels compared to the 15” five lug wheels traditionally used; the new wheels will also be single-lug-nut ones which (at least theoretically) should facilitate smoother pit stops.
- New cars also feature an underwing, or diffuser, on the rear to increase downforce as well as improve aerodynamic stability.
- Transmissions will gain a forward gear with the switch from 4-speed manual to 5-speed sequential manual.
- Cars are now symmetrical, the previous Gen 6 car could be made asymetrical to allow for easier cornering on Oval tracks and less impact due to tire scrubbing. However in the Gotta Try spirit some cres are experimenting with adding shims to try to recreate this in the Next Gen cars. No idea if that will be allowed come race day though.
- Perhaps the most notable difference is the Next Gen car’s appearance. It is designed to more closely resemble the Mustangs, Camaros, and Camrys you would see in the showroom or out on the street, an effort to put the “stock” back in stock car, at least aesthetically.
These are just five of the differences between the cars and we can’t help but wonder if making them look like road cars ( kinda), increasing the number of gears, making them symmetrical is a slow move to including more road races in the next seasons.
This is certainly not a feature of the 2022 NASCAR cup season, but maybe a move to include more road races and away, a little, from oval tracks is coming in the future.
The Nascar Racing Machine Through the Decades
The new Gen 7 car is perhaps the most radical departure for the Nascar stock car. Here is a quick rundown of the evolution of the Nascar stock racing car. As you can see new models and next gen nascars are a fairly common occurrence throughout the history of the sport.
Indeed in all motor sports there are changes as technology, safety and performance improves. NASCAR is no different. If you are feeling nostalgic for the days gone by we have a full article on the NASCAR generations and speeds from the past here. However when dealing with the past a friend once told me it is ok to look back, just don’t stare.
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We are not trying to convince you whether or not now is a good time to introduce another generation of NAsCAR or not. Only time and racing will tell any of us that.
However, it is not unusual for motor racing to update and move forward, they all do it. Innovation is part of the sport, and i think all race fans and drivers want to have the best racing experience. They will just disagree on how to achieve that.
There is one constant though, thorough all the motorsports, being at the front of this innovation is where the success is. Being at the back of it is not a place any NASCAR driver, team or fan ever wishes to be.
Whether the Gen 7, or Next Gen NASCAR is the way to achieve this we will know in a few months, and if its not, well then we all move on to Gen 8!