CONCORD, N.C. -- There won’t be much of an offseason within the NASCAR Cup Series as all the teams prepare the Next Gen car for 2022.
Each Hendrick Motorsports driver was on hand during a NASCAR testing session at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday and Thursday to feel out the car as they raced around the 1.5-mile oval. The Next Gen race cars will have several huge changes, including new floor-mounted manual transmission, independent rear suspension and a new wheel design featuring one lug nut.
“I feel like it’s a little tighter car,” No. 24 driver William Byron said. “It doesn’t have all the components that the old car did in the way you could drive it, so we’re trying to figure out what that box is that I need to be in and guide the team accordingly so that they stay on schedule with their changes.”
The car will require the drivers to have new strategies in place come race day. Since there are so many new components to the revamped race cars, it has made the handling different than the Gen 6 cars the drivers have used over the past two seasons. For newly crowned Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, this means the drivers will have to get used to slightly different driving styles.
“They’re either a handful by themselves, which is fun, but whenever you get around people, I’m sure it’s going to be harder to drive,” Larson said. “Some people might say that’s good. I think others might say it’s going to make it more difficult to pass people to put on a better show.”
2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott already has through of the analytical side of what the car will need, especially in the shop and behind the wall on pit road. With so many different parts to the car, an entire race team will have to find a new rhythm on how to best service the car.
“We’re just trying to get our heads wrapped around what we need parts-wise and tool-wise and what it’s going to look like when we come in during practice,” Elliott said. “We’re kind of going through the motions and learning what we need to have a smooth practice.”
Perhaps the biggest change visible to the naked eye will be the style of the car. For the new fleet of Chevrolets Hendrick Motorsports will employ next season, it will look like a familiar Camaro that anyone can buy and drive off a car lot.
“I think the fans are going to really enjoy how the race car looks, more like a production car,” No. 48 driver Alex Bowman said. “Obviously, the wheels look really cool and it looks like the normal production Camaro.”
NASCAR also has Next Gen organizational tests scheduled Dec. 14-15 at Phoenix Raceway, Jan. 11-12 at Daytona International Speedway and at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in late January.
“I think going through the testing process (and) getting our hands on the car, doing long runs and getting used to the little nuances like what changes are big magnitudes, what are small magnitudes, and I feel like it always changes,” Byron said. “There’s a lot of things, I feel like, in testing that you have to keep an open mind with but, overall, I think it’s gone pretty well.”