Goodbye Gen 6, Hello Next Gen
Finally, after two years of testing and a one-year postponement of its official launch, the latest iteration of the NASCAR Cup Series has arrived.
NASCAR’s Next Gen car is here, fresh with a newly announced rule set that includes a base 670 horsepower 4-inch rear spoiler, more symmetrical vehicles, and more spec parts than a Cup car has. never seen before.
But before we dive into welcoming the novelty for 2022, let’s pay tribute to the Gen 6, the last Cup Series car built by hand by each team.
From 2013 to 2021, the Ford Fusion (and the eventual Mustang), the Chevrolet SS (and the following Camaro ZL1â¦ and Camaro ZL1 1LE) and the Toyota Camry graced the circuit with no less than 850 horsepower, as little as just over 400 hp (on superspeedways) and with several aero packages.
The only one consistent over their nine-season stint, however, was that they were designed from the ground up using the same knowledge and notebooks that have guided teams through the sport’s last three decades. Cars have evolved; teams have become smarter; engineers have become more important. But the knowledge base was still centered on the same fundamentals of stock car racing since at least the 1990s.
Corey LaJoie, driver of Spire Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet, said in June that the laptop was completely useless in 2022.
“Every note we’ve made in the past 25 years in sport is out of date, âLaJoie Recount front stretch at Pocono Raceway. âNow we always know what makes a race car go fast in a circle, but in terms of wedge, left rear spring, track bar height, whatever we work with to make a race go fast in a circle. of these cars are not. will apply to the Next Gen car.
Excluding Goodyear and Sunoco, 24 suppliers will supply the parts and parts that make up the Next Gen vehicle. This includes the Five Star Race Car Bodies, which will supply the doors, fenders and body panels; Technique Chassis, LLC., Which will supply the chassis, front, rear and center supports for the body; and Roush Advanced Composites, which takes care of the greenhouse, brake ducts, front door crush panels and more.
The switch to supplied parts is massive in a sport in which teams have relied on innovation as the separating factors. At the Phoenix Raceway for the Gen 6 car final, Denny Hamlin’s crew chief Chris Gabehart lamented the change while understanding NASCAR’s decision to take such a sharp turn.
âThis sport was built on art, and these cars are works of art,â Gabehart said. âPerfection does not exist, and the people who build them could spend endless hours making them a little more perfect every minute of every day. And to a large extent, it’s dying. It is frankly a shame.
âI’m not saying I agree or disagree with this, but racing was built on building the fastest car you know how to build, and then driving as perfect as you knew how the driving, and we are certainly losing a very important aspect of that and I think there are a lot of people in this industry who are sad to see it go.
There was also some hesitation this weekend, as teams quickly realized they needed to make sure they had enough parts and parts to build the number of cars they wanted ahead of the season.
Brad Keselowski, who assumes the role of driver / owner at RFK Racing for 2022, called the switch to the car “culture shock” for the Cup garage when it was available to media in Phoenix. For all the tests that were done in the car, how comfortable was the 2012 series champion with the vehicle’s progress in November?
âComfort is a strong word. No one, I think, is comfortable, âKeselowski said. âWe would like the car to be a little more stable than it is. But the reality is that we are working on stuff, so hopefully we get it buttoned up here in the next couple of months and then we’ll all be in a good position.
A month later, it looks like at least some of those concerns have been resolved. NASCAR’s Dec. 21 decision to formally commit to boosting horsepower helps set a more definitive direction for teams to get their cars ready while sorting out all of their parts for the upcoming season (and previous practice sessions at to come).
There are too many questions left to really predict what 2022 will look like, but we were finally given a few clues during testing on December 16 and 18 at Charlotte Motor Speedway that helped determine the 2022 rule package.
We’ve heard for years that NASCAR was more interested in putting things in the hands of pilots, only to be shown that the product on track still had to replace pilots’ wishes (i.e. slowing them down to regroup the field and improve optics). This time the drivers apparently get their wishes.
Keselowski: âWe liked everything today, some more than others. â¦ I’m pretty excited because the cars are much more difficult to drive. â¦ If you make a mistake, the penalty is huge. â¦ The 4 inches looked like cars from the 2005 Cup.
– Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) December 17, 2021
This seems like a good time to note that while we are all nostalgic for NASCAR of the mid-2000s, we have to remember that a lot of these races saw the field stretch a bit.
We also saw some phenomenal finishes, a fantastic racing midfield and a significant amount of talent needed to keep the car out of the fence. If this kind of racing is on the horizon – and no one really knows it yet (despite Tyler Reddick’s many laps last week) – then maybe we’re about to rekindle some of the magic of this. era.
The Next Gen car will be special to see in action. The dynamics of the sport will really change in 2022. Will the best teams of yesterday be the same today? Or will a relative underdog increase instead thanks to more spec coins in the mix?
The truth is, we won’t have a good answer until the first dozen races maybe counted. What we do know, however, is that we’re sure to witness something entirely new in February.
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