Unofficial test speeds from organizational Next Gen testing for the NASCAR Cup Series on Nov. 17-18 at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s oval layout. Note that times are unofficial, with no technical inspection conducted before each session.
Austin Dillon was the first to crash a Next Gen car. (Note: see more photos below table)
There were 18 Cup Series organizations on site with 30 drivers. One- and two-car teams were allowed to field one entry, while three- and four-car teams were limited to two. That did require some drivers to take turns behind the wheel.
For example: Trackhouse Racing is a two-car team, so Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain split time in the No. 1 Chevrolet. Stewart-Haas Racing is a four-car team, so Kevin Harvick and Chase Briscoe shared the No. 4 Ford, while Aric Almirola and Cole Custer took turns in the No. 10.
“You saw a lot of the smaller teams actually up the leaderboard a good bit there,” said John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation. “I know not everybody’s coming here to put a lap time up. But you see the teams from front to back are a lot more prepared and they’re on the track right away. So, I feel like they’re learning very quickly and their level of preparation has gone way up, especially now that we’re done racing. They’re completely focused on the car at this point.
“I would expect Phoenix to be the next evolution of the preparation, and the competition from front to back should be continuing to get better and better.”
|1||12||Ryan Blaney||31.179||-0.000s||173.193||Team Penske|
|2||6||Brad Keselowski||31.204||-0.025||173.055||RFK Racing|
|3||24||William Byron||31.231||-0.052||172.905||Hendrick Motorsports|
|4||43||Erik Jones||31.265||-0.086||172.717||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|5||94||Ty Dillon||31.288||-0.109||172.590||GMS Racing|
|6||4||Kevin Harvick||31.289||-0.110||172.585||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|7||45||Kurt Busch||31.294||-0.115||172.557||23XI Racing|
|8||16||Justin Haley||31.295||-0.116||172.552||Kaulig Racing|
|9||34||Michael McDowell||31.370||-0.191||172.139||Front Row Motorsports|
|10||11||Denny Hamlin||31.377||-0.198||172.101||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|11||22||Joey Logano||31.400||-0.221||171.975||Team Penske|
|12||7||Corey LaJoie||31.406||-0.227||171.942||Spire Motorsports|
|13||78||BJ McLeod||31.441||-0.262||171.750||Live Fast Motorsports|
|14||9||Chase Elliott||31.466||-0.287||171.614||Hendrick Motorsports|
|15||20||Christopher Bell||31.481||-0.302||171.532||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|16||10||Aric Almirola||31.505||-0.326||171.401||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|17||21||Harrison Burton||31.516||-0.337||171.342||Wood Brothers Racing|
|18||1||Ross Chastain||31.522||-0.343||171.309||Trackhouse Racing|
|19||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||31.529||-0.350||171.271||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|20||51||Cody Ware||31.618||-0.439||170.789||Petty Ware Racing|
|21||3||Austin Dillon||31.633||-0.454||170.708||Richard Childress Racing|
|22||66||Timmy Hill||33.925||-2.746||159.175||Motorsports Business Management|
Day 2 to come
“I feel like there’s been good, steady progress with some gremlins in the steering, some gremlins in the transaxle and then just standard suspension settings,” said Kurt Busch, who has driven the Next Gen car before, but Wednesday marked his first on-track time with 23XI Racing. “Those are all getting a bit more scienced out. It was like we were on the moon before, and now we’ve landed on planet Earth. And now it’s up to each team to individually tailor the cars to make themselves better.
“Then we have to see how the cars will do in traffic still, I still think that’s going to be an interesting game.”
There was no pack racing Wednesday, though the idea was tossed around for Thursday. The last hour of Thursday will be dedicated to pit practice, a Next Gen first. NASCAR will also make a spoiler change for Thursday’s session — cutting the spoiler from eight inches to seven inches and that is expected to add 30 horsepower and increase the speed of the cars.
NASCAR has two more organizational tests scheduled for the offseason. Up next is Phoenix Raceway, a 1-mile circuit, Dec. 14-15. Then, Daytona International Speedway’s 2.5-mile high banks will see teams Jan. 11-12. Additional venues and dates have not been confirmed but are in the works.
The Next Gen cars will make their competitive debut Feb. 6 in the 2022 Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“This entire car from top to bottom — for everybody that’s working on it, for all the drivers, for everybody that’s building the parts and pieces — it’s a new challenge,” Alex Bowman said. “There are so many things on it different than what we had. It’s very challenging.
“The old car was really fun because how aggressively hard you could drive it. This car, you can’t drive it as hard I don’t feel like, or at least I’m not comfortable with it yet. But learning where those limits are — how hard you can or can’t drive it — is going to be a challenge. I’m enjoying trying to figure it out.”