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NASCAR’s NextGen test raises concerns about on-track action

NASCAR tested its NextGen car at Charlotte Motor Speedway and saw some unexpected results. What has caught the eyes of NASCAR, drivers, and fans alike?

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR tested the NextGen car at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week which saw drivers run the new car on the oval and pit crews working on pit stops due to the one lugnut tire. However, there were some red flags that popped up.

What is causing the concerns for on-track action next year?

NASCAR has work to do with the dirty air

The NextGen car is supposed to be harder to drive and decrease the effects of dirty air on the driver behind. The car is definitely harder to handle which is good, but the dirty air still remains an issue.

Based on what was seen from the limited packs of cars and drivers’ opinions, it was still very hard to pass the driver ahead. Ross Chastain described how William Byron was able to pull up behind and pass him when he went on his 35-lap run. However, the concerns are still present.

It’s the biggest issue for any racing series and specifically in NASCAR, it’s very important to find a way around it because of the lack of horsepower. If dirty air still remains an issue, it will be very hard to pass, especially with low speeds.

The bright side is that drivers were most likely not pushing the cars to the extremes since they are getting used to them. So, does that mean passing could be easier than we saw and it’s not a cause for concern?

It remains to be seen, but there is some work to do because it’s known that passing has been horrid on intermediate tracks for the last few seasons. Anything better than what was seen last year would be an improvement.

The speed of the NextGen car was alarming

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When looking at the top speeds from NASCAR’s test sessions at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it may seem lower than you would expect. Well, that was the case after the two-day testing period came to an end.

The top speed for a driver in the NextGen car was 175.718 MPH by Aric Almirola with a lap time of 30.731 seconds. In comparison to the Coca-Cola 600, that time would’ve been 33rd fastest out of 38 drivers. The slowest time was 31.822 seconds by David Starr.

According to Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass, there was some speculation that Stewart-Haas Racing cars had more horsepower due to their tapered spacers with bigger holes and they ran the seven-inch spoiler for a portion of the second day of testing.

If you take the first non-SHR car, Kurt Busch would have the fastest speed of 173.717 MPH and a lap time of 31.085 seconds. That would have ranked 36th out of 38 cars in the Coca-Cola 600.

In comparison to the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Busch’s time would rank 17th out of 36 cars. For the NASCAR Truck Series, it would have been 15th out of 38 trucks. That is very, very alarming.

While fans would love to see fast speeds, if the passing increases on intermediate tracks next year, the product of racing will increase. However, what if that doesn’t happen?

NASCAR would have little passing and the top speed of a mid-pack Truck Series team in the top level of its sport. That simply cannot happen and will not be sustainable whatsoever.

The easiest fix is to increase the 550 horsepower package to 670 horsepower or more. Maybe these tests will show it’s a necessary fix because the speeds are way too slow and combined with the dirty air, there is concern.

What’s next after the recent Charlotte test

NASCAR Media Day
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The good thing about these concerns is the timing. NASCAR has plenty of time to fix them and they will most likely fix them to the best of their ability before the Daytona 500 rolls around.

There are rumors that NASCAR may change the testing schedule but any announcements pertaining to this have not been made yet.

On the bright side, there was a two second drop off due to tire wear across a 35-lap run, according to Ross Chastain. It could be a larger drop off, but it’s good compared to the Coca-Cola 600 in 2021.

Ideally, NASCAR would be better served to increase to 670 horsepower for testing and see what happens. It never hurts to try and it would bring more positive results when it comes to speed.

Either way, NASCAR has time to make changes and they will. However, progress needs to be steady and they can’t lose any time with the Busch Clash in Los Angeles, California only two and a half months away.