The seventh generation of NASCAR’s Cup car model is so divergent from its past that the industry isn’t bothering to call it Gen-7. Instead, it’s Next Gen and the big unveiling is Wednesday.
Manufacturers Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota will release their new car bodies and specs, and elements of the new car will be announced at 3 p.m. in Charlotte. Fans can watch live on NASCAR.com.
While specifications for each update from the current Gen-6 model is TBA, motives around the move to the new car are well-documented, as are certain features following the car’s delayed debut for the pandemic and more on-track tests over the last year. Here’s everything we know about the Next Gen car.
Why go to a new car model now?
The primary answer is two-fold: Manufacturers want to field cars that look similar to the ones they’re trying to sell to consumers, and NASCAR wants to help teams cut costs to make the sport viable for years to come.
Manufacturers will build the chassis, supply parts and a composite body in an effort to achieve those ends.
“The change in the direction by NASCAR for the Next Gen car was certainly a lot about relevancy to make the car look more like the street car,” Global Director of Ford Performance Mark Rushbrook said in November. “To make what’s underneath the car more like the street car, to allow us more opportunities for innovation and tech transfer, so that part of it is great.”
Rushbrook said that the economics around that car are meant to benefit all industry stakeholders, including team owners and manufacturers. Cost savings are expected to come from the single source supplied parts, Autoweek.com noted in a recent article.
“The car that we race today is largely built by teams,” Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson said. “It’s almost like raw race car tubing comes in one end, race cars come out the other end. This new model is a revolutionary change.”
When will Next Gen debut in competition?
The planned debut was originally 2021, but the pandemic delayed Next Gen’s on-track start to the 2022 Daytona 500. NASCAR has continued to refine its car models with testing at various tracks. Most recently, NASCAR and Goodyear ran tire tests at Darlington and Richmond, with Tyler Reddick behind the wheel at Darlington and Bubba Wallace driving at Richmond.
NASCAR announced Tuesday night that drivers will race a virtual version of the Next Gen car in the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series on Wednesday night at virtual Darlington Raceway. The event is scheduled for 8 p.m. on FS1.
What do the drivers think?
Tyler Reddick noted the size difference in the wheels between the current model and Next Gen, with the Next Gen car using larger tires
“One of the obvious differences is the tire profile and the 18-inch wheels versus the 15-inch wheels we have on the current Cup car and all the other cars,” Reddick said. “Understanding that feel and knowing where the limit is on a tire with less sidewall profile, especially at Darlington, which is already really hard to get a hold of.”
Bubba Wallace reacted to the sound, as did drivers who tested the car last fall at Charlotte, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who explained that the deeper noise is created by an exhaust tailpipe on each side of the car, rather than just on one side as it is in the current model.
“The car sounds really cool,” Wallace said. “From the inside it sounds really mean.”
On the technical side, the car will also utilize a sequential gearbox instead of the H-pattern gearbox that drivers are used to in the current car. In addition to the wheels, the brakes are also larger in Next Gen, and the ability to stop is quicker, according to drivers who tested the car.
The new model will also include a shift to a single lug nut instead of the five lug nut pattern currently used with the smaller wheels.
And finally, in perhaps the most forward-thinking feature, the Next Gen car is designed with space to add an electric motor and battery as the industry looks to adding a hybrid component in its race cars in the future. The utilization of that hybrid component could be coupled with a new manufacturer entering the sport in the coming years, NASCAR president Steve Phelps said last month.
“Next Gen sits by itself,” Phelps said in February. “There are many things that Next Gen will do for us as a sport when it rolls out in 2022. The styling is going to be amazing. I think the racing is going to be better based on the aerodynamics of the vehicle.”
“The costs associated with the vehicle will be lower in terms of its absolute cost as well as the number of cars that will be necessary to run and run up front. Those are all wins for us.”