What drivers said after Daytona Next Gen test

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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.”

NASCAR Daytona Drafting Test
Chris Buescher during the tire test for the Next Gen car at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Chris Buescher

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.”

William Byron

Overall thoughts:

“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.”

NASCAR Daytona Drafting Test
Ross Chastain during the test. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Ross Chastain

Overall thoughts:

“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.”

Cole Custer

Overall thoughts:

“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.”

Austin Dillon

Overall thoughts:

“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.”

NASCAR Daytona Drafting Test
Denny Hamlin during the test. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin

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.”

Joey Logano

Overall thoughts:

“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.

Overall thoughts:

“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.”

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.