What do NASCAR drivers think of Next Gen car? ‘It feels like the first day of school’

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  • Kurt Busch
    Kurt Busch
    American racing driver

The NASCAR season might be over, but Charlotte Motor Speedway was still loud with the sound of revving engines Monday as two Cup drivers tested the highly anticipated Next Gen car for the first time at the Concord track.

Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. participated in the first day of a two-day test at the speedway on Monday. The session featured the drivers on the track’s 2.32-mile road course, also known as the Roval. The second day of the testing takes place Wednesday on the speedway’s oval with the same drivers.

“It feels like the first day of school because of how different the car is,” Busch said.

He described driving the car as “fun, exciting and different,” noting the changes from an H-pattern gearbox in the current car to a sequential gearbox in Next Gen, an especially noticeable change at the road courses that emphasize gear shifting.

The brakes and tires are also larger in the Next Gen car, and the ability to stop is quicker, the drivers said. The sound of the car was also a point of comment.

“It sounds throatier and deeper,” Busch said. “The sound was very cool.”

Truex Jr. called the sound “cool and badass when you’re driving it,” explaining that the deeper noise was created by an exhaust tailpipe on each side, rather than just on one side, as it is in the current car.

The Next Gen car is scheduled to debut in competition in 2022 after its release was pushed back a year due to the pandemic. Versions of the car were previously tested by Austin Dillon at Richmond last October, Joey Logano at Indianapolis last December, Erik Jones at Homestead-Miami in January, William Byron at Fontana in March and Cole Custer at Dover in August.

Monday’s test marked NASCAR’s sixth Next Gen test session, as well as the first time multiple drivers ran at the same time in the new car, although Busch and Truex Jr. were spaced fairly far apart for their laps.

Busch was running a version of the car NASCAR is referring to as its “P3” model, which is the same model Byron and Custer tested earlier, with some minor modifications after Byron crashed during his test in early March (ECR engine). Truex ran a Next Gen car built by Action Express Racing and tested earlier at Daytona (Ford engine).

The car is intentionally designed to look more similar to cars sold in stores by manufacturers, and it will include a shift to a single lug nut instead of the five lug nut pattern currently used with the smaller wheels.

Like Busch, Truex Jr.’s test review was positive. He called the car “really solid and fun to drive so far.”

“I guess it does everything a little bit better,” Truex Jr. said. “It’s a little bit easier I would say to drive in general around the road course. It turns really, really well.”

The first Charlotte test was focused on finding the best tire combinations and logging laps for a road course, Busch said. He said that Wednesday’s oval test would likely emphasize closer driving to see how the cars manipulate the air when racing each other.

NASCAR did not release lap times from the test day, but Busch called the times “impressive” during the session that lasted over five hours and ran into nightfall.

“It feels like I’m qualifying every lap because of how impressive the lap times are and how much grip the car has in certain spots of the race track,” Busch said.

The drivers ran the car with a lower “hybrid” horsepower, which Busch said was somewhere between 550 and 750 horsepower. Next year’s Roval race will use a 750 horsepower package. Truex Jr. said he thought the Next Gen car was faster, or as fast as the current car, with the lower horsepower.

Busch said the thought time was gained with faster shifting through the infield.

“To me that says Next Gen all over it,” Busch said. “When you’re going faster, turning better, accelerating harder and braking harder, braking faster. Faster’s better and we’ll just keep fine tuning it.”

Driver reviews of the car have been largely positive so far, with Busch and Truex Jr. becoming the latest veterans to weigh in and provide data. NASCAR has not released an updated test schedule, but it is aiming to hold another test this calendar year, likely at a superspeedway.

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