Weighing the pros and cons of the NASCAR Next Gen car
Last week, all three of the NASCAR National Series celebrated Homecoming Weekend at Darlington Raceway. While the on-track paint schemes paid homage to the drivers and cars of motorsport’s rich history, the big motorsport news earlier this week was about the future. Last Wednesday, the three sports makers officially unveiled their models of the new Next Gen Car which will make its NASCAR Cup Series debut starting with the Daytona 500 next year. Read on for a closer look at the various pros and cons that the Next Gen Car is expected to have on the run.
Presentation of the NASCAR Next Gen car
The next generation cars are certainly amazing. The designs of all three manufacturers are more like a regular touring sports car than their Gen-6 model predecessors. It is reminiscent of the old adage: “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday”. This of course referred to the natural spike in manufacturers’ car sales at the start of a workweek after winning the NASCAR Cup Series level the weekend before.
However, like anything else, there is always more to a book than the cover. While most of the features of these new cars are worth getting excited about, it’s also safe to note some changes that could ultimately hurt the race from a NASCAR fan perspective.
Next generation car breakdown | Benefits
More aggressive races
One of the most notable changes from the current Gen-6 car to the new Next Gen car is the body material. Sheet metal has long been the bodywork of production cars at the first level of sport. From next year, this will no longer be the case. The next generation cars are built from much more durable composite body panels.
When it comes to the impact these new bodies will have on racing, fans can get a lot of information from the NASCAR Xfinity series. The same composite body panels that make up the Next Gen Car have been used in the sport’s second-tier series since 2017. Even the manufacturing company, Five Star Fabricating, Inc., is consistent between the two. In fact, the material used at the NASCAR Cup series starting next year will be even stronger than what currently adorns Xfinity cars.
Composite bodies have led to greater durability through aggressive contact strokes at the Xfinity level. The same can be expected from the cars of the next generation. Drivers will be able to beat and bang more without compromising their equipment. No NASCAR fan has ever said no to aggressive racing. New Next Gen Car body materials should only help to produce more.
Emphasis on the skill of the driver
The next generation cars are symmetrical, a feature that will go a long way in emphasizing the racing ability of drivers as opposed to setting up a team in the garage before a race. The offset and tail offset used by teams to create straight lateral force has been removed from the new models. The next generation cars will be located about two inches higher off the ground than their Generation 6 predecessors. The tires will also be bigger.
The aerodynamics surrounding the new NASCAR Cup Series rides will also be changing quite a bit. Wind tunnels and engineer simulations have proven to be effective in perfecting the configuration of the Gen-6 model. Adjustments to combat this point of importance in new, next-gen cars include the increased height, a new front splitter, and a flat underbody. Perhaps one of the most fascinating adjustments is a rear diffuser to channel the air flowing under the car so as to reduce the impact of “dirty” air on cars passing directly behind. Less aerodynamic emphasis is enormous to maximize the on-track talent of the drivers.
Improved fan experience
In what might be the best part of all for fans, the Next Gen models are expected to allow the installation of on-board cameras onboard every NASCAR Cup series car. Additional angles, HD cameras, and even 360 cameras are all on the table for inclusion. For fans watching the races, this feature is sure to be a home run. TV broadcast partners will no doubt also be delighted.
Next generation car breakdown | The inconvenients
Prominence of Pit Road
One of the essentials of NASCAR pit stops is removing and tightening the lug nuts. The next generation cars will be a significant transition from the current Generation 6 models in that the wheels will only be secured by a single lug nut instead of five. When it comes to a fan’s take on sports, it’s hard to see this other than a negative. The image below shows a side-by-side comparison of the Gen-6 five-lug wheel and the Next Gen single-lug wheel.
NASCAR claims the time difference between the Gen-6 wheels and the Next Gen model is only 0.3 seconds. However, we have regularly seen situations where a single lug nut left too loose has proven to be detrimental. It will also be interesting to see how this change impacts the weekly penalty reports after the race. These are usually dominated by lug nut errors. Reducing the excitement on the pit route is a definite downside.
Team configuration adjustments
One of the main focus of next generation cars is to put the talent of the drivers at the forefront. This comes at the expense of engineering and pre-race team setup, but another element of it could actually turn out to be a major downside when it comes to racing these new models. Senior NASCAR officials have spoken of the increased weekly team adjustments as if it were a significant advantage.
That being said, more variance in the car’s setup from track to track and more necessary adjustments also leaves more room for error. If teams have to work harder to tune a car from week to week, there’s a greater likelihood that they’ll miss the setup altogether. So while the impact of aerodynamics will be reduced overall, there are other potential pitfalls. If some teams succeed with the increased setup adjustments and others miss horribly, it could lead to significant gaps in performance on the track, regardless of the skill of the drivers.
Follow us on all our social channels! Discover our Twitter, Facebook and Youtube for more FlurrySports content.