NASCAR drivers are still learning about next-generation cars mid-season

by Bob Bocras
NASCAR FOX Sports writer

Four months into the era of the next generation of NASCAR Cup SeriesThe question is not so much what the teams have learned but what they need to learn more.

The only thing they learned: The next generation car is hard to predict. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Drivers are still learning how cars race from track to track.

“I’d bet a million dollars,” former Cup champion Kevin Harvick said. “Charlotte would be horrible.” “Then all of a sudden, we’re running on a part of the racetrack that we haven’t run in five or six years.

“So I stopped trying to guess how my car would run, what race would be good, what race would be bad because there is no rhyme or reason for it. And I don’t think it’s by mistake. I think it’s just because there are so many new variables that we don’t all understand Absolutely, and it’s kind of a trial and error.”

Kevin Harvick on the next generation car so far

Kevin Harvick on the next generation car so far

Kevin Harvick can’t predict how the next generation car will race at any given track, as teams are still learning the vehicles they just started racing this year.

Perhaps because the cars are still a bit fast once they get loose, saving them from spinning and crashing is more difficult, which leads to more warnings and restarts. However, while it may be easier to make a mistake, there seem to be times when a driver needs someone to make a mistake for a pass, especially on short tracks.

pass [in] “Traffic – This car is worse in traffic than the previous one,” said Kyle Busch. “I feel like all the underside stuff isn’t at all what we expected. The cars go well. They’re good.”

“The fun part about it is that they drive good cars themselves when you have full air. But if what we were looking for was improving cars and traffic, we didn’t. The biggest struggle in myself and around our team.”

Kyle Busch on the next generation car so far

Kyle Busch on the next generation car so far

Driving a next-generation car is tough, and that’s fine, says Kyle Busch, but it’s also hard to overtake another car even if you’re faster.

There sure have been drivers who haven’t struggled like Busch – Ryan Blaney has recently been able to come from the back of the field to the front at Gateway. He said he needed a really fast car (he probably had the fastest car in the field) to do that.

To help get through on short trails, NASCAR tested on Tuesday and Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway with a plastic undercarriage and no extensions on the rear diffuser—the setup that was used for the Bristol dirt track. Busch, Austin Cindric and Tyler Reddick all took part in this test, with Goodyear also testing several combinations of tires, hoping to give drivers more power to succeed. Another test, involving one or two cars per enterprise, is scheduled for August.

The tires were definitely a focal point of the new car, as the teams tried to find the great spot of camber and air pressures that would create top speed without tire blowouts.

Several drivers have been hit hard this year after tire failures. Goodyear recommended air pressures, but teams often fall back on them in the quest for speed. This year’s tires don’t have inner liners because when NASCAR expanded the tires from 15 inches to 18 inches in diameter but kept a similar circumference, there wasn’t enough room for Goodyear to put an inner liner. The wheels are also not designed for inner bushings.

“We can’t control the car when the rear left explodes – that’s the biggest problem we have right now,” former cup champion Joey Logano said. “We just have to work on it…when you turn a corner, you’re traveling at that point.

“You used to be able to memorize it. [It’s a] Learning curve with the new car, but you have to change something to fix that. I don’t know what this is. I have ideas.”

Joey Logano on Next-Gen Tire Explosions

Joey Logano on Next-Gen Tire Explosions

The only area Joey Logano wants NASCAR to work on when it comes to the Next Gen is the number of left-rear tire blowouts and the inability to salvage the car when that happens.

All new cars will have problems, but in many ways NASCAR’s goals have been achieved with this car. I’ve gone from team-built cars to team-assembled cars with virtually all parts and parts, since there is only one NASCAR-selected vendor for each part and piece.

There was par with 12 winners – from six institutions, including both the year two institutions Trackhouse Racing and 23XI Racing – in the first 16-point races of the season.

“I think it’s important that without a next-generation car, we’re not going to talk about Trackhouse Racing, we probably won’t be talking about the 23XI,” said Trackhouse driver Daniel Suarez, who won the Sonoma.

“The next generation car has brought a lot of opportunities to the existing new teams. I’m sure they will continue to do so in the near future. I think that was a very critical factor.”

Trackhouse’s Ross Chastain won the same car at both the Circuit of the Americas track and the Talladega Superspeedway oval. In the past, the team wouldn’t have brought the same car to those two tracks.

Lugano’s chief of staff Paul Wolf, after Lugano’s victory at the Gateway, didn’t even know when that car had ever raced.

He said, “I don’t know who’s on top of my head.” “It just means that it doesn’t matter anymore. There are no cars that we specifically take to certain tracks. I’m not sure where this car was last run, but certainly nothing different.”

“This could be the same car we raced in Daytona. That’s the part about it that we’ve all been looking forward to and that is not being able to have track cars. We can definitely move them and move them from one track to the other.”

Hendrik Motorsports president Jeff Andrews, who noted that teams are still scrambling to get cars assembled and haven’t imagined everything, said whether this remains to be seen.

“Obviously, as everyone knows, all of these racing teams are now struggling to get the cars together,” he said. “Access to the racetrack, parts, parts and components is an issue – only global supply chain issues in the world are a problem outside of the parts and parts that go into this race car.”

It is hoped that the car will become more economical in the following years. As parts and components were modified for improvements, as well as more accidents and damage than expected, those in leadership positions for the team indicated they were spending more money than initially expected. But they also know that there’s no way to predict the costs of a car until they’ve raced it.

Since the teams won’t be spending money on researching and developing new parts, they should eventually be able to cut costs.

Of course, teams spend all the money they can get on sponsorships. Team owner and driver Brad Kiselowski prefers spending more money on training. Most weeks, teams get 20 minutes of practice and then they have very limited changes they can make before qualifying and racing. The idea was to simplify work for crews and officials, as well as create a two-hour training qualification window for broadcasting.

“We’ve gone that far [of] Three or four hours of training, three days a weekend, we’re here too long for this max [of] “Warm up for 15 minutes, you can’t work on cars most weeks,” Kiselovsky said.

“There’s a happy spot in the middle, and I think we have to work together to find that.”

Keselowski wants more practice time

Keselowski wants more practice time

While meeting with the media in early June, Brad Keselowski lobbied for more practice. He explains why he thinks it is necessary.

Keselowski thinks they can get more practice during the race weekend and not overburden the crew. With only one weekend (last weekend) in the 37-week schedule, the overall teams started with a plan to give traveling crew members an extra weekend or two during the season to avoid burnout.

This presents another challenge for the teams: they are now learning the functions they need in the store and on the road. Many teams have had challenges hiring the people they need. With changes in the vehicle building process for the next generation car, many crew members expected to be unemployed and left the industry over the past year for non-racing mechanical and engineering roles, which now offer similar salaries and less travel.

Andrews said the racing industry has not been immune to the labor challenges seen in many industries. The extra time needed while learning the best and most efficient practices with the new car (not to mention being at the mercy of supply chain issues causing delays in vehicle outfitting) made it difficult for teams to create consistent work schedules.

“Not just NASCAR, but the world is going through this change now that there’s just a different environment and a different thought process, and it’s getting more and more difficult for us to find young men and women to come to the track and do it three days a week,” Andrews said.

“It’s just a different world out there at a different time. … The challenge is the other things out there that provide opportunities maybe to work from home or approach things differently than coming into an office or getting on a plane every Thursday night or Friday morning and coming to the racetrack “.

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What to watch

With temperatures well into the ’90s and the heat index expected to be over 100 degrees in Nashville, this will be the weekend that tests all the changes NASCAR made last fall to help drivers weather the heat.

So far, cars haven’t turned into ovens. The problem with the car before the extra windshield vents and the short exhaust pipe was that the tire rail would heat up to untouchable levels.

It remains to be seen if these changes are enough to help in extreme conditions.

think out loud

Speedway Motorsports founder Bruton Smith left a legacy where no idea is too wild to think about at least twice.

Smith, who died Wednesday at the age of 95, was the first track operator to light up a racetrack the size of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile long.

He oversaw the expansion of several tracks, such as the Bristol Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and the Texas Motor Speedway building.

Smith loved big, bold ideas. He wanted his highways to be places that fans loved.

He was a skilled businessman and certainly fought his battles with NASCAR brass and local governments as he grew his racetrack empire, now run by his son Marcus.

He deserved his NASCAR Hall of Fame honors before his debut in 2016, because no matter what you think of Smith, there’s no doubt that NASCAR – where you race and how the tracks work – would have been a lot different without his leadership.

social lights

they said that

“The trophy chain will do a really good job of stripping you of confidence, so anything you do to restore confidence is definitely a good thing.” – Rookie Cup Todd Gilliland

Bob Pokras has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 games of the Daytona 500. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after working for ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @Popocras. Looking for more NASCAR content? Subscribe to the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!

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