As the top NASCAR Cup teams compete for the championship in the last weeks of the season, numerous key members of each organisation are looking ahead to 2022. This is true in any season, but it is especially true this time of year. The reason for this is the impending arrival of the so-called Next Gen car
NASCAR ‘Has Only One Shot’ at Getting the Next-Generation Car Right
The most recent version of the vehicle that Cup contenders will race across the country. The car will make its debut in the non-points Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 6 before heading to Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500 on February 20. Between now and then, the car, which is one of the most drastic changes from the usual in the Cup series’ history, will be a focus point for every team, even while several of them compete for the championship in 2021. During the summer, parts and pieces for the new car began to arrive in Cup shops, prompting the relocation of some team workers to shop areas dedicated to extracting maximum speed from this new animal. Denny Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart, compared it to eating a giant elephant. Bring all of your utensils and prepare to eat for a long time. “The bigger teams have a group of development personnel who are entirely focused on that,” he remarked, referring to mechanics, engineers, and aero guys.
“It’s a massive project, not only in terms of the new-car aspect, but also in terms of how you’re going to work on them, how you’re going to set them up, and what tools you’ll need to work on them physically. Because it is such a large project, we have a team of people who have been working on it for months. As the date approaches, we’re all paying more attention to it.” The new car will have a composite body, a departure from the sheet metal that has defined NASCAR’s top-level racer since the series launched in 1949 as the Strictly Stock division. There are other more changes as well. According to others, the only things in the new automobile that will remain the same are the driver, the driver’s seat, and possibly the steering wheel. “I don’t think there’s ever been a move like this in any of our lives,” Travis Geisler, Team Penske’s competition director, said. “There’s basically nothing about it that isn’t the same as we’ve always done.”
It’s a significant departure in terms of car technology, components, and the car’s concept. When we start with raw steel and finish up with a race car, the assembly process is completely different.” The changeover to the new car, according to Toyota Racing Development head David Wilson, is “a significant step for our sport.” In a few months, we’ll be bringing a product to the race track that is still new to all of us. We’ll all be sipping from a fire hose in an attempt to learn and comprehend what we’re up against. “We’ll be working on the plane while we’re flying it,” says the pilot. To be honest, that’s a little alarming.” The fact that chosen groups from the top teams will be working almost solely on the new car while their teammates aim to win races and the title in 2021 may help to calm nerves. “I think the big teams can take a bunch of people and someone to manage it and put them over in that corner and say, ‘That’s your project,’” said Larry McReynolds, a Fox Sports racing analyst. “The race team must maintain its concentration on the remainder of the timetable.” It’ll be a completely new tale when the chequered flag waves in Phoenix.”
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