On Tuesday and Wednesday, eight drivers and teams from the NASCAR Cup Series participated in a two-day Goodyear tire test at Daytona International Speedway with the Next Gen car, in an effort to better understand the logistics of racing on a superspeedway with the brand-new car, which is set to debut in February’s Daytona 500.
The following drivers and teams were on-site during the two-day tire test:
- Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing)
- Dillon tested the car in October 2019 at Richmond.
- Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing)
- First-time testing the car.
- Chris Buescher (Roush Fenway Racing)
- Buescher tested the car in December 2020 at Daytona.
- Joey Logano (Team Penske)
- Logano tested the car in December 2019 at Phoenix.
- William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports)
- Byron tested the car in March 2020 at Auto Club.
- Cole Custer (Stewart-Haas Racing)
- Custer tested the car in August 2020 at Dover.
- Ross Chastain (Chip Ganassi Racing)
- Chastain tested the car in June 2021 at Dover.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty Racing)
- First-time testing the car.
Following the conclusion of the tire test, John Probst, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Racing Operations, provided some comments about what the sanctioning body had planned for the session, as well as some of the things they learned, and what they had to change to get things within the specifications that they had in mind coming into the test:
Probst mentioned that the speeds in the eight-car packs were matching what the sanctioning body had in mind. However, with the potential for more cars creating a faster lap in the draft, NASCAR called an audible and worked with the teams overnight to make some adjustments, decreased the horsepower to 510 horsepower, and cutting the rear spoiler down to seven inches tall.
Also mentioned, was the fact that NASCAR is anticipating a return to Daytona International Speedway in January in order to do another test with a bigger roster, stating that they’re hoping to have upwards of 26 teams participating in the session, with the hopes of ensuring the speeds are safe.
Our main goals coming down to Daytona were to develop a tire with Goodyear that we could come back with in February and also to make sure the speeds that the cars were going to turn in single-car and multi-car runs were within our targets
We made some runs yesterday. We were really close to the speeds we’re looking for, but we only had eight cars in the draft. We wanted to make sure that we’re conservative coming back here and need to have something in our back pocket should we get here and the speeds are too high.
Overnight we changed the taped spacer and made it smaller, to about 510 horsepower, and reduced the rear spoiler down to seven inches. That had the desired effect today, we did slow the cars down some. The feedback from the drivers was that it wasn’t a radical change from one to the next, so we feel like we now have that data to evaluate coming back here.
We’re thankful to the teams that built these cars and worked with us during the test, and the drivers for all the feedback and input they have provided – not just here but as we have gone through this project over the past two and a half years. We had a meeting with them this morning to debrief the previous day’s activities and come up with our list of things to work on today.
We obviously have a list of things to work on coming out of here. We have to work on the heat in the car, we have some ideas there. We used the afternoon today to try some big swings at things and found some directions to go, so I feel like we made some really big gains there.
We’ll probably come back here in January and do another test with more teams, it’s an important track for us to get right. We’ll probably have a good number of teams, possibly 26 or more.
— John Probst, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Operations
Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Chris Buescher and William Byron – four of the drivers participating in the test — offered their thoughts and feeling about various aspects of the car. Prior to this week’s test, Buescher and Byron were both able to log some laps in the Next Gen car, while both Stenhouse and Hamlin were making their first laps in it on Tuesday.
For Hamlin, the NASCAR Cup Series’ most recent winner, his initial reaction from the new car seemed kind of mild, beginning by saying: “It’s a race car, it’s got four tires and a steering wheel, from my standpoint it doesn’t change greatly.”
The Chesterfield, Virginia-native continued by pointing out some of the bigger differences in the new car, specifically citing the changes in the vision, as well as the changes in the shifting patterns of the car with the new sequential gearbox, which Hamlin says will be important as the series heads to road courses in 2022. At the end of the day, Hamlin knows that any additional experience he can get in the car will help him get better acclimated for next season.
“We worked on some different packages to try and make the car suck up and draft,” Hamlin said regarding the session’s overall plan. “Obviously our number one priority is to put on a great show when we come back. We’re trying to figure out how we can make these cars draft and put on the greatest shows that we worked on for 20-plus years with the other car. It’s a learning process. We’re really focused on the heat of the car, trying to get the heat out. Those are our main focuses for the day.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 8, 2021
Ricky Stenhouse Jr was in the same exact boat as Hamlin, having never turned a lap in the car before the start of Tuesday’s testing session. In fact, the Olive Branch, Mississippi-native stated that JTG Daugherty Racing only received their car three weeks ago, and worked hard to try and put together the best possible piece they could for the test. Luckily, there were no major problems throughout the two-day session.
“Mine drove okay,” Stenhouse said. “Some seemed to be dancing around, a little bit loose, but all in all ours drove really good and felt comfortable. Just trying to figure out how we’re going to make better racing. Making sure that we can pass, get good runs, create good racing. I was really happy, I thought we all did a good job getting out there and working the lanes, working the bottom, top, pushing each other. Really tried to simulate as much as we could a real race, and everybody did a great job of that.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 8, 2021
William Byron was one of the first drivers to get the opportunity to test the Next Gen car, over 18 months ago at Auto Club Speedway, but got a second-chance in a more finalized model this week at Daytona International Speedway, a two-day session that the 23-year-old says was an overall success.
“I thought it went really well,” said Byron. “We got really aggressive there in that second drafting session. I feel like we were all pushing each other to make moves, and everyone was pretty comfortable with it, so that was really good to see.”
When asked about the difference in speed between the current car and the new car, Byron said: “It’s within a second or two, I don’t know exactly, it feels a bit slower. You have a little more time to think on speedways, but I like that. I think it kind of lets you think more about the moves.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 8, 2021
Of the drivers who have participated in Next Gen testing, Chris Buescher is the only driver who got the opportunity to test at the same facility twice, returing to the 2.5-mile superspeedway for this week’s tire test after testing the car alone last December. This time around, Buescher got to test in a draft, while also getting the opportunity to work on some of the cooling components in the car.
“Inside we’re working on getting some stuff figured out to make it a little more comfortable,” said Buescher. “The rearview camera is something that is really neat there, learned a lot about it in the runs and the drafting runs there. You can actually see quite a bit more than you’re used to. I used the camera a lot, and the spotter up on the roof to learn where the cars are and be able to start getting a gauge of how close they really are. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, it still applies to the camera, too. So we’re trying to figure that out.”
— Robby Lyons (@RLRacing2) September 9, 2021
“It’s pretty warm, so we’re working on trying to cool it off,” Buescher said regarding the internal temperature of the cockpit. “We’ve got some different hose configurations, so we’re going through those trying to alleviate some of the heat inside. Aside from that, once you get strapped in, it doesn’t feel a whole lot different than any other race car.
Joey Logano had a similar thought process to many of the drivers who have tested the car, pointing out that it will take some time in order to get acclimated to the major differences between the current generation car and the Next Gen car.
“It’s like any new car, there’s some low-hanging fruit and some areas to gain, it’s not fully refined like the vehicle we’ve been using for the past 10 years. Over time we’ll get there. But it takes laps, it takes these race teams a lot of smart people working on it to get there. We’re making gains, getting closer”
One of the series’ most aggressive drivers – superspeedway or non-superspeedway — Ross Chastain, made a point of mentioning the curved bumpers and how they’ll line up when bumpdrafting. Chastain made note that many people, himself included, did some tandem runs with no issues, but noted that many, if not all, were being cautious.
“The biggest difference day-to-day was the package we went to with the smaller spoiler and lower horsepower,” said Chastain. “I thought it was worse for maneuverability and us to be able to race, but there was only eight of us so it was tough to build any momentum as it is, I think that would be the case with our current car as well.
I think a little bit higher horsepower and bigger spoiler, something to make the hole behind the car in front bigger, I think when the air comes across the belly pan there’s too much air and the trailing car can’t catch up to a certain extent, not like we can now. Granted, I think if you had 40 cars out there, you’re going to catch up, you’re going to get pushed up there.”
Interestingly enough, Austin Dillon’s sentiment was the opposite of Chastain’s, saying that he thought the package changes that were made after the completion of the first day of testing had a positive impact on the way the cars raced in the draft.
“We made a package change from first day to the second day and I think it was really good for the draft, taking the spoiler down a little bit. Came off the horsepower and I thought the draft looked better. Handling-wise, learning some stuff, still working on the steering, it’s a little quick. But all in all, I think it was a great test. We didn’t wreck any of these cars, which is good. We learned a lot.”
The experience for second-year driver Cole Custer was a positive one, with the Stewart-Haas Racing driver matching the tune of some of the sports veterans, noting the numerous changes that will take some getting used too when the car debuts next season.
“It was interesting. I would say it’s kind of like jumping into the unknown,” said Custer. “There’s so many things you don’t know what it’s going to be like. It’s pretty much rethinking the whole way we race. We’re going over things we never would have thought of to go over with our other car. Just a lot of sorting through things. I think it was awesome to get into the draft and see what’s similar and what’s different.
Images from Tuesday / Wednesday Goodyear Tire Test:
NASCAR has also posted additional video footage of the Next Gen test on their YouTube channel, which you can watch here: