On Tuesday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was on hand to turn laps at NASCAR’s Next Gen Tire Test at Bowman Gray Stadium and after climbing from the car, the 26-time NASCAR Cup Series race winner, who retired from full-time competition following the 2017 season, was beaming in his endorsement of the newest generation of NASCAR race car.
Earnhardt stated that he came into the test session really not trusting that the Next Gen car would be the true cure all for the competition side of the sport, but that he left his driving stint pleasantly surprised.
“I was really skeptical [going into the test],” Earnhardt said. “In my mind, you take the current car we have and try to drive around [Bowman Gray], it’s not going to be a lot of fun. It’s not going to be able to get the power down, the tires are too small, it’s not going to brake into the corners as well, we’re going to slide the tires, the left front tire and flat spot the tires. Going to chatter the rear tires into the corner.
“But this car, does all of the things I was worried about and it does them all and it does them well. I think this car is a great match for this track and any track. Whereas the car we have now, doesn’t work everywhere. And is difficult at places like this. So, I’m sold now. I was skeptical, but I think it’s going to work really well. The car gets around the corners, it’s not too small. I thought the track would be too small for our cars, and they just wouldn’t handle the drive well, but this is a different beast.”
NASCAR will swap to the Next Gen race car for the 2022 season, a season later than originally scheduled thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if Earnhardt’s experience behind the wheel on Tuesday at the tight Bowman Gray short track is any indication, we could be in for a pleasant surprise on the track on Sundays next season.
Racer’s Kelly Crandall took video of Earnhardt turning laps around Bowman Gray Stadium in the Next Gen and posted the video to Twitter:
A few laps around with Dale Jr. pic.twitter.com/HotCW3Kb6v
— Kelly Crandall (@KellyCrandall) October 26, 2021