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NASCAR’s latest NextGen tests create a very bright future

NASCAR tested its NextGen car at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week and it has created significant optimism. What has caused this drastic narrative change?

Austin Konenski
NASCAR
Mark Zaleski/ For The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

There was a cause for concern when NASCAR’s NextGen cars took part in testing last month at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but this week’s tests have seen the narratives change significantly.

What has caused this change? Let’s dive into the details.

NASCAR will use the 670 horsepower package at most tracks in 2022

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Credit: Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

NASCAR announced on Tuesday morning that next year’s package will be 670 horsepower with a four-inch spoiler on every track with an exception of Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, and potentially Atlanta Motor Speedway.

It’s a significant improvement to the package after it was announced that NASCAR would run the 550 horsepower package at intermediate tracks, which was not received well by many drivers and fans.

This change comes after concerns about the performance of the NextGen car last month in Charlotte. There were many problems, such as the speed and ability to pass when in dirty air.

Many drivers, such as Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, have shown their displeasure about the 550 horsepower package on record. Busch called it “accordion-style racing” while Harvick discussed his reasoning for NASCAR to increase horsepower.

Even NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson called out the 550 horsepower package after the race at Michigan International Speedway by saying they barely got to race due to the package.

There is universal support to the idea of increasing horsepower and it is needed. The 550 horsepower package simply created boring racing that not many people enjoyed in the stands or from their homes.

Drivers love the packages on the final day of testing

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Credit: Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

As stated above, the drivers have shown their discontent with the 550 horsepower package, but some drivers showed newly founded support after testing concluded on Friday afternoon.

There were three packages that NASCAR was testing on Friday:

  • Configuration 1: 670 horsepower and six-inch offset spoiler
  • Configuration 2: 670 horsepower and six-inch centered spoiler
  • Configuration 3: 670 horsepower and four-inch centered spoiler

The first configuration saw the fastest speeds with six of the 18 drivers with sub-30 second times while the third configuration saw slower speeds with one driver in the sub-30 second bracket. However, the reasons for this are clear.

The four-inch spoiler creates off-throttle time, which can be seen firsthand on this onboard with Brad Keselowski. More off-throttle time will tend to create slower times but the product of racing will increase.

This is why Keselowski and his former teammate Joey Logano came to love what they saw with the 670 horsepower and four-inch spoiler. Keselowski called the racing similar to a 2005 NASCAR Cup Series car or in other words, the Gen-4 car.

Logano said the four-inch spoiler was the best of the bunch and mentioned how tire falloff and strategy could come back into play. Tire falloff has been a topic of concern in the past due to the lack of falloff at some intermediate tracks.

Based on unofficial times, it was found that William Byron suffered a drop of six to seven-tenths in the span of 10 laps and around one second in 15 laps. This is certainly an improvement from the last few seasons at Charlotte.

Other drivers like Tyler Reddick, William Byron, and Daniel Suarez all praised the NextGen car and how much different it is compared to last year’s car. Overall, the NextGen car is harder to drive and the drivers love it.

In the end, NASCAR decided to use the third configuration that will see 670 horsepower and a four-inch spoiler.

What the future holds for NASCAR with the NextGen car

There was a time where the NextGen car had significant concerns and going into these tests, there was a lot riding on the performance of the car. Fortunately, it seems like NASCAR has found the package to make the car work well.

The passing looked much better than the previous test and last year’s car. There was more off-throttle time on a mile-and-a-half track with tire falloff, which is a major improvement from 2020 and 2021.

Also, the demise of the 550 horsepower package is a good thing due to the drag and weight of the NextGen car. All of these facts make the car even more appealing to potential OEMs and owners looking to move into the NASCAR Cup Series.

It would be an understatement to say the new car has created excitement about NASCAR’s future. There are plenty of expectations that are being set on this car and there’s no reason they can’t be met with more improvement.

Tuesday morning created significant optimism with the NextGen car and it will only go up from this moment.