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


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 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.

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

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And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”