CONCORD, N.C. -- William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Hendrick Motorsports, spent Sept. 7 and 8 testing the 2022 “Next Gen” Camaro at Daytona International Speedway to continue development of the new NASCAR Cup Series race car for its debut next season.
Byron has worked with NASCAR to test the 2022 car before. He drove it for the first time after the race at Auto Club Speedway in March 2020. Since then, the sanctioning body has continued to work on the new model to get it ready for the DAYTONA 500 in February.
Following this week’s test, Byron walked away with a positive impression.
“There were certain aspects of the car that definitely were very cool,” he said. “I thought the rear-view camera and the shifting of the car was very easy to do, and I like that. I like the visual of the car, and the single lugs were something that are very neat.”
With a new race car on tap, Hendrick Motorsports engineers know that the challenges ahead present new opportunities to find winning speed. Alba Colon, the organization’s director of competition systems, is excited to tackle any obstacles head on as her team prepares.
“It’s always a great challenge to work on a new vehicle, and this is completely different than what we have done in the past,” Colon said. “This is more similar to vehicles being raced in other series like IMSA (sports cars). As an engineer, it’s interesting and welcoming to work on a race car that is completely different to what we are used to. All of our engineering teams are doing a great job balancing how to finish this season with a championship while getting ready for every test with our 2022 Chevrolet and preparing new tools for next year.”
The car NASCAR is producing will feature manufacturer models that resemble street cars anyone can purchase in a dealership. NASCAR wants to bring fans closer to the sport with a recognizable cars on the racetrack that could also be in someone’s driveway.
“We are all working very hard with NASCAR, Chevrolet, our suppliers and other Chevy partner teams to make sure this new car continues to produce great racing for our fans,” Colon said. “We will all work together on educating people on the new challenges and why this is an exciting product at the right time for our sport.”
Hendrick Motorsports general manager Jeff Andrews expects the modernization of the Cup Series car to be intriguing to fans. He added that the transition has already begun and production of the new Camaro will be well underway during the 2021 championship race in November.
“If you can imagine, for us, once our cars leave for the last race of the year at Phoenix (Raceway), we’re essentially going to clear some 60 to 70 race cars out of our facility,” Andrews said. “And not just cars. It’s parts and pieces. Everything will leave here, and then there’s an influx of new parts that are going to show up when we return from Phoenix. At the same time we’re finishing the 2021 season, we will have people here getting this shop ready for 2022.
“The process is going to be an unprecedented change for not only us, but for the NASCAR industry. There will be no offseason this year – it’s going to be a very, very busy winter around Hendrick Motorsports.”
As NASCAR continues to develop the 2022 car and teams gear up to make the switch to the new model, Byron understands that giving feedback is just as important for his team at the race shop as it is for NASCAR to make sure they are prepared for next year. Currently, NASCAR is slated to continue to run tests up to the start of 2022 Cup Series season.
“I still keep a pretty open mind just because we are six months out from racing,” Byron said. “(There will be) a lot of changes as soon as the teams get a little more time with the car and have a chance to really work on it and understand the things that make it tick. All I can do is just give them the best feedback possible, and I felt like I did that over two days (at the Daytona test). We made some good progress in terms of philosophy and ideas on the car.”