Eight Cup drivers took part in a Goodyear tire test Tuesday and Wednesday with the Next Gen car. For some, it was the first time driving the car. Others had tested it before.
Those testing this week were: Chris Buescher, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Cole Custer, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR provided quotes from each driver and John Probst, NASCAR senior vice president, racing innovation. Probst noted that NASCAR likely will test at Daytona in January with more teams in preparation for the Daytona 500.
Here is what each had to say:
John Probst – NASCAR Senior Vice President, Racing Innovation
“Our main goals coming down to Daytona were to develop a tire with Goodyear that we could come back with in February and also to make sure the speeds that the cars were going to run in single-car and multi-car runs were within our targets.
“We made some runs yesterday. We were really close to the speeds we’re looking for, but we only had eight cars in the draft. We wanted to make sure that we’re conservative coming back here and need to have something in our back pocket should we get here and speeds are too high.
“Overnight we changed the taped spacer and made it smaller, to about 510 horsepower, and reduced the rear spoiler to seven inches. That had the desired effect today, we did slow the cars down some. The feedback from the drivers was that it wasn’t a radical change from one to the next, so we feel like we now have that data to evaluate coming back here.
“We’re thankful to the teams that built these cars and worked with us during this test, and the drivers for all the feedback and input they have provided –not just here but as we have gone through this project over the past two and a half years. We had a meeting with them this morning to debrief the previous day’s activities and come up with our list of things to work on today.
“We obviously have a list of things to work on coming out of here. We have to work on the heat in the car; we have some ideas there. We used the afternoon today to try some big swings at things and found some directions to go, so I feel like we made some really big gains there.
“We’ll probably come back here in January and do another test with more teams, it’s an important track for us to get right. We’ll probably have a good number of teams, possibly 26 or more.”
Thoughts on the inside of the car:
“Inside, we’re working on getting some stuff figured out to make it a little more comfortable. The rearview camera is something that is really neat there, learned a lot about it in the runs and the drafting runs there. You can actually see quite a bit more than you’re used to. I used the camera a lot, and the spotter up on the roof to learn where cars are and be able to start getting a gauge of how close they really are. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear, it still applies to the camera, too. So we’re still trying to figure that out.
“It’s pretty warm, so we’re working on trying to cool it off. We’ve got some different hose configurations, so we’re going through those trying to alleviate some of the heat inside. Aside from that, once you get strapped in, it doesn’t feel a whole lot different than any other race car.”
On difference between December test and this week:
“For us to bring our own car and to really work through a lot of the steering stuff, that was the hard part about the December test, that part’s much better. To the point where it’s a lot more predictable, a lot more drivable. The steering is way quicker than anything I’ve ever driven, so we’re doing our best to slow it down as much as possible.
“I think we’ve run out of adjustments, unfortunately, so it is quicker than I would have liked. But we’ll work on ways to try to get around that, I don’t know if there is anything. At least now the steering is predictable, feels more like you would expect it to and also a little bit more like our current car.”
“I thought it went really well. We got really aggressive there in that second drafting session. I felt like we were all pushing each other to make moves, and everyone was pretty comfortable with it so that was really good to see.”
Regarding the speed of the car:
“It’s within a second or two, I don’t know exactly. It feels a little bit slower. You have a little bit more time to think on the speedways. But I like that. I think it kind of lets you think more about the moves.”
“It was pretty uneventful for us, which is a good thing. We had no mechanical failures, no steering issues. We worked through some sweeps on pointing the tires different ways, loading the car with more load on the front springs and tires than the rear, just general setup things. Stuff we don’t know, it’s a totally different car, what makes it tick, what makes it happy.
“The biggest difference day-to-day was the package we went to with the smaller spoiler and lower horsepower. I thought it was worse for maneuverability and us to be able to race, but there was only eight of us so it was tough to build any momentum as it is. I think that would be the case with our current car as well.
“I think a little bit higher horsepower and bigger spoiler, something to make the hole behind the car in front bigger. I think when the air comes across the belly pan there’s too much air and the trailing car can’t catch up to a certain extent, not like we can now. Granted, I think if you had 40 cars out there, you’re going to catch up, you’re going to get pushed up there.
“We did some tandem drafting, some guys did more than me, but I did a little bit. Even with the round bumpers, we were all pretty cautious, but it was doable. Now, you go hit ‘em really hard with a round bumper, it’s probably not going to be really good. Stuff we just have to learn.”
“It was interesting. I would say it’s kind of like jumping into the unknown. There’s so many things you don’t know what it’s going to be like. It’s pretty much rethinking the whole way we race. We’re going over things we never would have thought of to go over with our other car. Just a lot of sorting through things. I think it was awesome to get into the draft and see what’s similar and what’s different.”
“We made a package change from first day to the second day and I think it was really good for the draft, taking the spoiler down a little bit. Came off the horsepower and I thought the draft looked better. Handling-wise, learning some stuff, still working on the steering, it’s a little quick. But all in all, I think it was a great test. We didn’t wreck any of these cars, which is good. We learned a lot.”
Thoughts on goals for the session:
“We worked with some different packages to try to make the car suck up and draft. Obviously our number one priority is to put on a great show when we come back. We’re trying to figure out how we can make these cars draft and put on the greatest shows that we worked on for 20+ years with the other car. It’s a learning process. We’re really focused on the heat of the car, trying to get the heat out. Those are our main focuses for the day.”
Thoughts on first time testing a Next Gen car:
“It’s a race car, it’s got four tires and a steering wheel. So from my standpoint it doesn’t change greatly. But still there are some nuances. Your vision is a little different. The shifting is going to be different, especially when you go into road courses. So you’re going to want to get as many reps as you can to learn that. Any chance that I can get to get in it to be better acclimated, the better off I’ll be.”
“It’s like any new car, there’s some low-hanging fruit and some areas to gain. It’s not fully refined like the vehicle we’ve been using for the past 10 years. Over time we’ll get there. But it takes laps, it takes these race teams a lot of smart people working on it to get there. We’re making gains, getting closer.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“A lot of unknowns for us, we got our car three weeks ago and everybody at JTG put a lot of hard work into making sure we brought the best piece down here that we could. Everything went according to plan, really didn’t have any major issues. Had a couple little things we worked through, but that’s to be expected on a brand new car.”