NASCAR officials put its Next Gen race car through two days of testing at Dover International Speedway, and once again seemed pleased with the results.
“Dover is one of our highest load tracks, so we wanted to put heat in the car and laps and mileage on the parts and pieces,” said John Probst, senior vice president of racing innovation. “Our goal is to get 500 miles on the car this test, and we finished Monday at 226, so we’re in a good place.
“The most important thing for us is to validate what we think is going to happen. It’s important that when the team adjusts the car, it responds in a manner that is predictable. We’re in a good place in overall development of the car, and now we can focus on handling and driveability.
“So far, so good.”
Rookie Cole Custer drove the car. Dover is the fifth on-track test for Next Gen, and the first time Stewart-Haas Racing has been able to work on the car.
“It takes a bit for new teams to get up to speed, but by the second time on track, we were running lap times comparable to the race on Sunday,” said Probst. “We’re happy with the speed of the car.”
Said Custer, “It’s been different getting used to some of the things on the car, but it’s not ‘night and day’ compared with our current car. The biggest adjustment to me has been the steering. Currently, we have a steering box; the new car has rack and pinion, and it’s a totally different feel. You’re able to adjust it, and everybody will have their own preference on how they want it to feel.
“Overall, I’m really happy with how the car felt and handled.”
In a Zoom call with the media Tuesday afternoon from the track, Custer said it is too early to tell how the car will handle in traffic. However, he said nothing about the car jumps out as totally bad or totally good.
“I think (it’s) good to bring in independent suspension and different transmissions and stuff that’s more up to date with the technology today,” said Custer. “That’s all good, and I think it’s going to come a little bit later when we get multiple cars on the racetrack of how the aero is going to work. Right now, I have no idea how (it’s) going to work in traffic because I’m here by myself. That might come a little bit later.”
NASCAR has only done single-car testing with Next Gen. The plan, before the coronavirus pandemic became a reality, was to have its testing schedule increase in the second part of this year with open and organizational tests.
The debut of Next Gen has been pushed to 2022 because of the pandemic. Dover was the new car’s first test since March as NASCAR hit pause on its schedule when COVID-19 forced the sport into an unexpected two-month break. A test at Atlanta was canceled because of it.
On its timeline now, Probst said the most important thing is approving the OEM bodies by the end of September.
“That is a really big milestone for us, and we’re on track to hit it,” he said. “In terms of on-track testing, we still want to get to a superspeedway, and we’re looking at something at Daytona after the season ends. There is also significant enough interest that we may look into doing other on-track tests.”