CONCORD, N.C. -- It’s been less than two weeks since the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season has ended, but the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers already are deep in preparation for 2022.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the teammates will be on the ground at Charlotte Motor Speedway to test the Next Gen Chevrolet on the oval portion of the track. While some drivers, like William Byron, have been testing the new car since last winter, the majority of the field will be on hand to offer feedback and get used to the new car before the start of the season in February.
Jeff Andrews, the general manager at Hendrick Motorsports, expects all hands on deck for the next couple of months as NASCAR prepares for the revamped race car. He was part of the testing at the Charlotte ROVAL in September and was pleased to see how the car had progressed.
“The car continues to be refined, and everything before now has been protype parts and pieces from different vendors and suppliers,” Andrews said. “The cars that were tested earlier didn’t have the actual Chevrolet body panels on it, so this was our first opportunity to get on track with the actual parts that we’re going to be racing, not only in the body but in the mechanical systems of the car and the suspensions and everything.”
The testing from two months ago allowed Andrews to see the speed of the car and how it handled drafting. Those testing also got to analyze the engine power levels and spoiler configurations to try and get the speed matched to where NASCAR wants it to be. Everyone will be applying the data compiled from earlier testing over the next two days to see if the car is where it needs to be.
“For us, it’s a new opportunity with all new components – independent rear suspension, which is new for us in our racing series,” Andrews explained. “The transaxle assembly in the back of the cars is completely new for our type of racing. Again, the way the air goes through the nose of the car and exits the top of the hood – all of that is completely new.
“One of the biggest things is the underwing under the car, which is where a good portion of your downforce is going to come from. Having the bottom of that car sealed up like that with the diffuser in the back where all the air is exiting is common in other forms of motor sports but certainly new to us.”
With the massive changes coming in 2022, the race shops will have to completely reconfigure how they work on the cars moving forward. Andrews said all of the Hendrick Motorsports teammates will be learning together as they work with the parts received from NASCAR instead of fabricating it themselves. Even though many roles in the shop will change, Andrews thinks the Next Gen car will be exciting and new for everyone involved.
“It’s more modern technology with many of the systems on the cars and single lug nuts – it’s going be exciting to watch those pit-stop performances,” he said. “I think we’re going to see some pretty fast stops with the single lug nut. There’s lots of opportunity and we got to get busy and start to learn about all these new systems and processes. I look forward to getting to the track with it again and learn how to race it.”