NASCAR drivers have crucial tests of Next Gen car on the horizon

By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer

NASCAR drivers will have different goals when they test the new Next Gen car Oct. 11-12 on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

Those drivers who have not been in the car yet will just want to get a feel for it. Others who have been in it recently could be looking to improve on recent tests.

NASCAR is allowing one car for organizations that have one or two teams and two cars for organizations that have three or four teams. Multiple drivers could test a car so that an additional driver can at least get a feel.

There could be more than 20 drivers who test. Those expecting to be primary drivers at the test include Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Cole Custer, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain, Justin Haley, Erik Jones, Cody Ware, Ty Dillon (in a GMS car), Timmy Hill and possibly even Boris Said, sharing the Carl Long-owned car with Hill.

Some teams are questionable on whether they will make the test as they try to get a car assembled. Front Row Motorsports is not expected to have a car at the test.

"I’m excited to drive it on the road course," Bowman said. "That’s going to be the most fun part of that car is how good it is going to drive on the road course compared to what we currently have.

"It is going to be a good time. It just might be a hot one."

The heat issues of the car have resulted in the most chatter in the garage area, as the exhaust runs under the driver’s seat, and the entire frame rail and chassis get hot quickly. Radiator vents through the hood also send hot air into the cockpit through the side windows.

"We’ve been taking our own measures inside the race car, of things that we can control and the way we build our pedals and where we have our seat positioned and things like that," Stenhouse said. "So we’re looking to just continue to collect data.

"We collected a lot of data at Daytona [last month]. I think we ran close to the most laps, just trying to not necessarily go fast but just collect as much data as we can so we can get back to the shop and analyze and process it and continue to close those gaps and answer those questions that we need between the tests that we have coming up."

Kevin Harvick said he heard the car is "intolerable hot," but he has not experienced it yet. He hopes to sit in one this week. The challenge for teams is that most of the car, except for some of the equipment specific to the driver, is made of parts that come from vendors.

For more up-to-date news on all things NASCAR, click here to register for alerts on the FOX Sports app!

"I have not driven it," Harvick said. "I don’t even know how to shift it yet. I’m going to go figure out how to shift it on Tuesday at the shop so I can figure out how to get out of the garage stall so I don’t embarrass myself.

"The Roval will be where the work really starts."

One of the things he might have to work on once he tests the car? The rear-view mirror can be used as a mirror, but it can also project the view from a rear-view camera.

"The way my seat position was and everything, I could really see very well out of the real mirror on the top," William Byron said of adjusting to the different view after the Daytona test last month. "I think that’s just something that we can definitely get ironed out and fixed.

"I kind of used the rear-view camera instead, the whole time, and felt like it was really good and accurate. You could see the spoiler, and it seemed like the refresh rate on the camera was pretty accurate."

But that won’t be the only challenge. The dash is higher, and drivers are having to adjust their seats to make sure they have a good sightline.

"There’s a lot of differences just in the cockpit area," Elliott said. "The pedals are floor-mounted instead of hanging. The dash is in kind of an odd spot. ... You definitely can get the seat too low.

"But for me, where I like where my steering wheel to be, it runs right in the middle of that [dash]. I don’t know that I’m alone in that. Some of those things we’re going to have to tweak. It’s not the end of the world."

The shifter is a sequential shifter instead of an H-pattern. The cars will have an independent rear suspension.

"The shifter, obviously not being an H-pattern shifter, there is no reverse lockout, so you’re going to have to keep up with the counts of your shift," Elliott said.

"You can go to first and go to reverse, and there is nothing to stop you from doing that."

Teams are expecting more tests in the offseason, likely one at Charlotte and one at Daytona and another at a 1-mile track.

Drivers for single-car teams could have a little bit of an advantage, as they will do every test.

"I’m also excited that I get to be the one that drives the car in every single test," Stenhouse said. "I don’t know if every other team and driver will be able to do that, so I think that will be an advantage for us as well."

The drivers who could be at a disadvantage? The ones who are changing teams or manufacturers and won’t be allowed to do the test in October because they have to wait for the season to end before getting into the other team or manufacturer equipment.

"It’s a precarious position, but there is a lot of testing," Brad Keselowski said. "There will be at least three, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two didn’t get added.

"You hate to miss any test, but if there is one to miss, that’s not a bad one."

Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!

Thinking out loud

The Talladega race postponed Sunday because of rain brought up the issue of whether NASCAR should add lights to the facility. While it would make sense to avoid a rainout, it doesn’t make much sense beyond that.

Talladega is about the party at night, not racing. So except for the Cup race, they wouldn’t want a night race. 

Plus, the road that goes from the interstate to the track is not well lit and would need significant upgrades. Parking lots and other infrastructure would be needed for a night race. And it’s not like there would be a lot of non-NASCAR events or corporate rentals that would utilize the Talladega lights.

To spend millions basically as an insurance policy for a couple of races a year doesn’t seem like the best investment.

Social spotlight

Stat of note

When Tate Fogleman won the truck race at Talladega, it was just the second lap he had led in his career.

They said it

"To finally feel victory, it’s just one of those things you always dreamed of. ... It was just pure bliss." Brandon Brown on his upset Xfinity victory at Talladega

Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!