NASCAR likely using 670 horsepower at most tracks for Next Gen engine in 2022 season

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR concluded its Next Gen testing for the year Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and announced a horsepower change for the 2022 season.

On the second day of the second round of testing, teams tested three configurations on the 1.5-mile oval: a 6-inch offset spoiler, a 6-inch centered spoiler and a 4-inch centered spoiler.

All three were run with 670 horsepower, which NASCAR senior vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell confirmed would be the likely engine specification for the 2022 season at all tracks with the exception of Daytona International Superspeedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I would say we’re more than likely going with that (670 horsepower) number across all of our tracks,” O’Donnell said Friday morning during the test. “We’ve still got a few boxes to check post-test here where we get together with our (engine manufacturers) and the teams to just confirm that’s the direction we want to go with, but everything we’ve seen so far tells us that’s the horsepower we want to target and go with.”

FRIDAY SPEEDS WITH 6-INCH OFFSET SPOILER: Individual laps l Group

FRIDAY SPEEDS WITH 6-INCH CENTERED SPOILER: Individual laps l Group

FRIDAY SPEEDS WITH 4-INCH SPOILER: Individual laps l Group

Because of their banking and length, Daytona and Talladega have required NASCAR to implement engine restrictions to moderate speeds since 1988. Atlanta is being repaved and reconfigured for 2022 in a manner that is expected to produce the pack style racing of Daytona and Talladega.

For the past three seasons, NASCAR has switched between two horsepower packages depending on a track’s length. Most faster and larger speedways have been run with 550 horsepower (while short tracks and road courses used 750 horsepower), but results were deemed unsatisfactory after testing with that engine at Charlotte last month and Wednesday.

NASCAR had implemented 550 horsepower in 2019 to engender more pack racing at 1.5-mile tracks. That requires full-throttle speeds, and there were questions whether drivers would have to crack the accelerator with 550 horsepower on the Next Gen, which has featured more difficult handling in testing.

“The simple factor is how much drag is built into this car,” O’ Donnell said. “When you look at a 550 package, to produce some of the similar results you saw, the horsepower levels would have to be so low, that we just don’t think it’s the right move at this point. You can certainly go out there and run 550, but from what we’ve seen in comparison of 550 to 670, we lean more toward 670. Certainly a little more spread out when you restart a race.

“But with the tire wear and what Goodyear has been able to do, what you’re seeing is the comers and goes that we used to have in racing. The ability to maintain speeds and at this point, it’s just getting the drivers to a comfort level where you can run two wide. Where you have the ability to pass. Where we don’t have that wake that’s so noticeable in the past. (With) this package, hopefully you’ll see some movement throughout the field throughout a run”.

The 550-horsepower engine on the Next Gen car had produced speeds that were more than 2 seconds off the best lap by the Gen 6 car in its final practice on the oval last May.

In switching to the 670 horsepower engine and making aerodynamic adjustments for this week’s testing, NASCAR was able to raise speeds above 180 mph at Charlotte and ahead of the Gen 6.

There were questions about whether engine suppliers could handle producing the inventory of 670-horsepower engines for tracks that traditionally were 550.

O’Donnell said NASCAR met with manufacturers and teams about the options for moving to 670 two weeks ago during awards ceremony activities in Nashville, Tennessee.

“At that time, I think there was an inventory challenge,” O’Donnell said. “Could we get there, not across the season, but for (the early season races in) California and Vegas? Everyone was good beyond that. The conversations we’ve had with the team members, they feel like they can get there. We just want to have one final conversation post-test here.”

After beginning at 8 a.m. Friday and allowing the 18 cars at the test to make setup adjustments with individual runs for two hours, NASCAR organized group testing with 30-lap runs in each configuration to test handling in traffic. The groups were ordered from fastest to slowest based off individual lap speeds.

There were multiple minor incidents Friday morning, beginning with William Byron suffering a flat left-rear tire an hour into the session. Byron was OK, and his No. 24 Chevrolet suffered minor right-rear damage.

At 10:15 a.m., Tyler Reddick spun off Turn 4 but avoided major damage to his No. 8 Chevrolet. The Richard Childress Racing driver missed the last half of Wednesday’s test after hitting the barrels at the pit entrance.

NASCAR planned to debrief again with drivers after a final group session at 3 p.m.

Reddick, who spun a second time Friday without incident, said the cars were more on edge, “which is a good thing” as NASCAR honed in on the final package with various aerodynamic devices.

“Certainly I think with the 670 horsepower, there’s a fine line, ” said Reddick, who also was involved in a two-car spin (neither was damaged) during the final group session Friday. “We just have to find it with the spoiler, the amount of sideforce that we’re going to have with these cars with the shark fin or things we can change underneath (the car) and to the diffuser. It’s just about finding the right balance. I think we could have made it work with 550. I think we can make it work with 670.

“It’s just you’ve got to move around some other things to make it all match up right. It’s great for the cars to be at the handling edge by themselves. You don’t want to be boxed in to where you get within eight or nine car lengths of somebody that you can’t do anything with it because you’ve lost too much front downforce. We just have to keep working on that.”

Next Gen testing will continue Jan. 5-6 at Atlanta, Jan. 11-12 at Daytona and Jan. 24-25 session at Phoenix Raceway.

Dr. Eric Jacuzzi, NASCAR’s managing director of aerodynamics and vehicle performance said the rules were “95 percent there as far as parts and pieces” for next season, and the 2022 aero package should be finalized by early next week.

Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

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Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.

 

 

Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race

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Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

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A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).

Talladega’s tale of two drivers: One celebrates, one laments

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — It’s dangerous to forecast what is going to happen next in these playoffs in a Cup season unlike any other. 

So keep that in mind, but Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega moves him one step closer to returning to the championship race for a third consecutive season.

It’s easy to overlook that beyond earning a spot in the Round of 8 with his win Sunday, Elliott scored six playoff points. That gives him 46 playoff points. He has the opportunity to score seven more playoff points this weekend at the Charlotte Roval — an event he has won twice — before the next round begins.

Once the current round ends, the points will be reset to 4,000 for each of the remaining playoff drivers and they’ll have their playoff points added. 

At this point, Elliott would have a 21-point lead on his nearest competitor and a 31-point lead the first driver outside a transfer spot to the championship race.

The next round opens at Las Vegas, goes to Homestead and ends with Martinsville. 

A key for Elliott, though, is to avoid how he has started each of the first two rounds. A crash led to a 36th-place finish in the playoff opener at Darlington. He placed 32nd after a crash at Texas to begin this round.

The up-and-down nature of the playoffs, though, hasn’t taken a toll on the 2020 Cup champion.

“I feel like I’ve been doing this long enough now to understand the roller coaster that is racing,” said Elliott, who is advancing to the Round of 8 for the sixth consecutive season. “It’s going to roll on, right? You either learn to ride it during the good days, during the bad days, too, or you don’t. That’s just part of the deal.

“So, yeah, just try to ride the wave. Had a bad week last week, had a good week this week. Obviously great to move on into the next round, get six more bonus points. All those things are fantastic, we’re super proud of that.

“This deal can humble you. We can go to the Round of 8 and crash again like we did the first two rounds, or you can go in there and maybe have a really good first race. I don’t know. You show up prepared, do the best you can, figure it out from there.”

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Joey Logano has always been one who wants to race at the front in a superspeedway event instead of riding at the back.

When asked last month about the idea of Texas Motor Speedway being reconfigured to provide superspeedway-type racing — as Atlanta Motor Speedway was before this season — Logano questioned the value of that type of racing.

“Is that the type of racing fans want to see?” Logano said. “Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. 

“They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano sought to race at the front as much as possible Sunday at Talladega, even after his car was damaged in an early incident, but he took a different tack on the final restart. He restarted 24th and dropped back, finishing 27th.

“We just wreck all the time, so we thought, ‘Boy, we’ve got a big points lead, let’s just be smart and don’t wreck and we’ll be able to get out of here with a top 10, assuming they would wreck because they always do,’” Logano said after the race. 

“That was the only time I’ve ever stayed in the back, ever, was today and they didn’t wreck. We gave up a bunch of our points lead. We’re still plus-18, which is a decent spot to be, but, the goal was to race for stage points and then drop to the back and wait for the crash. I hate racing that way. I’ve gotten beat many times from people that do that, then I tried it and it didn’t work.”

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Michael McDowell’s third-place finish continues his strong season. 

McDowell’s finish extended his career-high of top-10 finishes to 12. He has five finishes of 11th or better in the last seven races. 

“I’m proud of the season we’ve had and the run that we put together,” McDowell said. “Everyone did a great job on pit road executing and getting us track position when we needed it. It’s good to be there at the end and have a shot at it, just disappointed.”

Front Row Motorsports teammate Todd Gilliland finished seventh. 

“Race car drivers are greedy,” Gilliland said. “I wish I could have gotten a couple more there, but it was still a really good day. We ran up front most of the day and my car handled really well, so, overall, there are definitely a ton of positives to take out of this.”

Sunday marked the second time this season both Front Row Motorsports cars finished in the top 10. They also did it at the Indianapolis road course. 

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NASCAR confirms that the Hendrick Motorsports appeal of William Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas will take place Thursday.

Should Hendrick lose that appeal, the team could then have a hearing before the Final Appeals Officer. That session would need to take place before Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Twenty-five points in the playoffs is a ton,” car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday of Byron’s penalty. “I mean, in the regular season if you got a bunch of races, you can make it back up.

“I’ve seen other cars under caution hit each other. In that situation, (Byron) wasn’t trying to spin him, but they got a tower full of people, they could have put him in the back, could have done something right then rather than wait till Monday or Tuesday, then make a decision.”

Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega.