For all intents and purposes, the 2021 NASCAR Cup season began this week.
NASCAR officials and Cup driver Austin Dillon spent the last two days testing the Next Gen car – which is set to make its debut for the 2021 season in the Daytona 500 – at Richmond Raceway.
The car has been in development for more than two years, according to NASCAR. The new look, according to a media release, will “honor stock car racing’s roots with bodies that resemble their street versions while incorporating new vehicle technology and innovation.”
“This is an important milestone for the Next Gen car and the future of stock car racing,” John Probst, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, said in the media release. “There are so many new systems on the car from the front to the back that our main goal with this test was to log laps and put miles on them.
“The test has met – and even exceeded – our expectations, and we are well on our way to developing the final iteration of the car.”
MORE: See the Next Gen car for 2021 season … well, sort of
Dillon gave high marks to the car.
“I really enjoyed driving the car,” Dillon said. “I like the way that it looks, you can see the finished product down the road. The OEMs can make the body look really good, like a street car that you see on the road today. When it comes together and they all get their cars on the track, we’re going to have something to work with that also looks really good.”
At the present time, only two prototypes have been built. The other car was tested in the wind tunnel for the first time on Oct. 1. It is scheduled for another wind tunnel test later this week, according to the media release.
A second on-track test is also likely to occur before the end of the year, but NASCAR did not give any details on who will drive the car or at what track it may be tested at.
“We have a very comprehensive test plan,” Probst said. “We will be doing extensive wind tunnel testing to ensure liftoff speeds are appropriate before moving to larger tracks. As we move into 2020, we will begin testing on intermediate tracks, superspeedways and road courses.”
While several components of the current car will remain in the Next Gen edition, other major elements including manufacturer’s body designs, are still in development, according to the media release.
Andy Petree, Richard Childress Racing’s vice president of competition, detailed the team’s involvement in the car’s development Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”
“It was a tremendous effort,” Petree said. “I feel privileged to have a part of it and for our team and for NASCAR and the whole industry to trust us with that. That first car means a lot to us. We put a lot of resources in it, by the fact we weren’t in the playoffs. We could do that. We built this car here, we built the chassis, we built basically everything that wasn’t manufactured. It was a third-party design, complete clean piece of paper design. To come out and do what we did yesterday was a tremendous accomplishment and I think everybody felt pretty good about that first run with that all new, brand new car and systems.”
Petree said data from “literally everything” on the car was documented.
“Everything on the car was instrumented,” Petree said. “Brandon Thomas (Managing Director, Vehicle Systems at NASCAR) is kind of the one that’s been the spearhead at least between RCR and NASCAR. He used to work here, he’s a great engineer, a really smart guy they hired to do this. There’s a bunch of people on the NASCAR side, John Probst, all his guys. Then on our side, we had literally every part of our development group working on it. … Justin Alexander is our head of R&D and he was basically kind of, you’d call the crew chief over the operation of getting the car built and then taking it to the track. He’s the one that interacted with Austin. They basically ran it like any normal test when we got there.”
Petree then compared the car’s design to what the Cup Series currently runs.
“If you look at what we’ve raced up until this point, it’s been an evolution,” Petree said. “From the front suspension being kind of based on the ’64 Chevelle frame. As far as the geometry and the rear suspension is a mid-60s Chevrolet truck suspension. … That’s what our car’s been designed and modeled after for years. Now we’ve got the chance, it’s totally clean sheet of paper.
“It’s built with nothing but racing (in mind) and current, most modern technology put into.”