The Next Gen (formerly known as Gen 7) NASCAR racecar finally took its first laps on a racetrack this week.
Austin Dillon and his Richard Childress Racing squad were the lucky folks to be the first ones to test the car this week at Richmond Raceway, with little to no concrete expectations entering the test.
“This is an important milestone for the Next Gen car and the future of stock car racing."
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 9, 2019
In a press release after the test session, NASCAR said there will be many changes, including to the body. So that body you were looking at, as if you were dropping acid, is probably not we’re going to see.
And that might be a good thing.
If you analyze the car that Dillon tested, it’s really not much different from what we see in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series today. The car is sealed to the ground, and it has a ridiculously large spoiler.
Isn’t that exactly the opposite of what fans, both old and new, have been asking for?
Fortunately, NASCAR is still working with manufacturers on the look of the car. Only two prototypes of the Next Gen car have been built, meaning plenty of changes can still come. The main part of this test was to figure out the kinks of the fresh technology and new systems in it.
“While many components on the current versions of the car will remain, some major elements – including each OEMs body design – are still in development,” NASCAR said in its statement.
“The test has met – and even exceeded – our expectations, and we are well on our way to developing the final iteration of the car,” John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vp of innovation and racing development, added.
But NASCAR simply can’t afford to have another Car of Tomorrow mishap (remember that thing?). It can’t even afford to do what it did entering this year, only having small mock races to determine how the car will be in race conditions. When NASCAR tested at Las Vegas Motor Speedway over the offseason, it literally live streamed just how bad the action was and the lack of passing. Changes? Nonexistent after that. The debate of whether or not the high-downforce/drag package has worked or not is subject for another column.
NASCAR needs to be diligent in this process. Sure, a couple of simulator tests can help those in power determine whether or not this Next Gen racecar will be a hit on the track or not. However, nothing on a simulator can do the sport justice at this point.
Let’s knock this car out of the park. Get fans to the tracks where testing occurs. Get feedback. If people don’t like how it looks or how it races, do something before it’s too late.
This car needs to combine the taste of those fans who want to see it look like a traditional stock car, all while attracting new fans by giving it a sleek look.
Let’s hope NASCAR lifts the cars off the ground a bit, changes up the design to look like a street car and actually make an aero package for this machine that will be entertaining.