Like many aspects of 2020, events that were supposed to take place either got pushed to a different date or just didn’t happen at all. You could look across all segments of our society and this has certainly been the case, including sports. We’ve all learned how to adjust to be flexible as a result of the times we are in. It also has taught us how to be creative in everything we do.
In NASCAR, while much of our schedule was altered, we were able to complete every points race in each of our three national series – Cup, Xfinity and Trucks. This included the race weekend here at Homestead-Miami Speedway in June, which encompassed four races over the course of two days. The NASCAR 2020 schedule was capped by the championship races two weeks ago in Phoenix. And as I’ve stated previously, it was a true effort across the industry to make this a reality.
One of the things that was slated to take place starting in 2021 but that got pushed back to 2022 is the rollout of the Next Gen car. Plans had been made for this to be unveiled starting this upcoming season, but with the pandemic, it just was not feasible to proceed. In fact, you might remember that back in January, we hosted a testing session for the Next Gen car, in which Erik Jones was behind the wheel. This past week in Charlotte, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. resumed that process as they were front and center in the testing sessions that took place both on the ROVAL and the oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Back in January, I said what an honor it was to be a part of such a notable event for auto racing as the sport continues to develop for the future, and knowing our track was able to play a critical role in the future of the car. Although the rollout has been delayed a year, that is still the case.
Since being founded by Bill France Sr. in 1948, NASCAR has transformed the make of the stock car on several occasions. You may remember the “Car of Tomorrow” or the “Generation 6 car,” as the two most recent changes to the body of the car.
It’s really interesting to see how the cars change over the years. From the beginning of NASCAR when the cars we see today with the bottom of the car scraping against the racetrack, it has changed quite a bit.
This newest change is being viewed as one that could really benefit race teams and the industry, particularly from a monetary standpoint. It’s something that a lot of the industry is anticipating as funding an entire racing season can be very expensive. With the cost of operating a team running so high, a cheaper entry barrier could bring a lot of changes to the sport.
For example, it could become more practical for new sponsors, teams, drivers or even manufacturers to become a part of our sport. It could also allow teams that currently run on a smaller budget to become much more competitive than ever before.
Still, an overriding factor will be to ensure that the car continues to provide exciting and competitive racing on the track. The test at Homestead earlier this year was the third time this Next Gen car was run on-track. The first two were held at Richmond Raceway and Phoenix Raceway. And now adding in the ROVAL and oval of Charlotte, there is a great deal of information that has been gathered thus far, with more to come before the new targeted unveiling for the 2021 season.
The first wave of tests brought out positive remarks from the drivers who tested. This included 2018 Cup Series champion Joey Logano, who took part in the session at Phoenix. He mentioned one of the biggest changes being the brakes and handling of the car and how he feels it will create more passing opportunities moving forward. Both Busch and Truex were upbeat about the car as well following their test in Charlotte, with Truex stating that “It does everything a little bit better.”
During these testing sessions for the Next Gen car, the drivers tried out many different things and the crew made countless adjustments to the car. When teams test, some of the things they change from run to run are tires, tire pressure, aero packages and downforce, among many other things.
Similar to a race, the goal is to see what combination of changes on the car can translate into the best lap times. Of course, teams are now able to do this with wind tunnels and simulators, but there is nothing that can replicate actually getting on the race track and seeing what a car is capable of – especially when it is a new car like the Next Gen one that was being tested.
I look forward to NASCAR hopefully being able to roll out the Next Gen car for the 2022 season, understanding the times of uncertainty that we are in. It’s something that I know the fans will like once they have a chance to see what the cars are capable of on the track, and I know the industry is eagerly awaiting as well.
2021 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race
Feb. 21: NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400