From the moment the next-generation NASCAR Cup Series car pulled out of the garage on Monday afternoon on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, everyone in attendance knew this was unlike anything in the history of the discipline.
It simply sounded different, that feature thanks to a split exhaust unlike the current car, which uses a crossover pipe.
But it’s more than just the audiovisual aesthetics, the Next-Gen is a different machine inside and out. The car features independent rear suspension, a departure from the tried and true solid axle rear suspension.
The car has 18” wheels and lower profile tires.
It features a sequential shifter instead of the traditional H pattern, the overall package more closely resembling elements of a sports car with stock car overtures.
For the first time ever, two of these cars shared the track at the same time, with the car nearing its 2022 debut during Daytona Speedweeks — following a one-year delay due to the pandemic.
But the extra year will allow NASCAR to finetune its new platform with tests like the one conducted on Monday at Charlotte with Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. behind the wheel.
Busch, driving a Chevrolet powered car named Prototype 3 prepared by Richard Childress Racing, likened the experience to the “first day of school” due to how radically different the experience was from the status quo.
“With the sequential gearbox, that’s the most fun,” Busch said. “I love shifting through the gears. Sequentially, you have to go second, third, fourth, fifth, and then you have to go back fourth, third, second. It’s not your typical H-pattern that we’ve had. So, this gearbox is fun to drive.
“The brakes are much bigger, and the car can stop a lot quicker.”
Busch called the experience “fun, exciting and different.”
Truex was driving a Ford powered car prepared by the Action Express IMSA team, with noticeable visual differences between how the car was prepared, mostly in terms of where the vents were placed.
“There are so many differences about the way these cars are built from our style of racing or racing stock cars in general,” Truex said. “It’s going to be a huge learning curve for everyone, but when the car is balanced well, it feels really, really similar to what we have now. That’s a good thing. This is a slow road course.”
The cars will test again with the same two drivers on the oval configuration on Wednesday. That session will include several side-by-side restarts to see how the cars handle in dirty air.
“To see how it feels on the fast oval Wednesday will be a real eye-opener,” Truex added.
As for the Roval tests, the cars were lapping in the 84 second range, comparable to what the current generation cars race pace on Oct. 11. It was several seconds slower than the 2019 race which was conducted using high downforce.
The engine was tuned to several different