Cup teams head back to work with Next Gen test at Phoenix

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Cup teams get their final time in the Next Gen car this week before they race it next month. 

NASCAR will hold an organizational test Tuesday and Wednesday at Phoenix Raceway. Teams are scheduled to test from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET each day. One car per organization is allowed at the test for one- or two-car teams; two cars per organization are allowed for three- or four-car teams. NASCAR.com will live stream all of the action on its YouTube channel.

For reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson, this test will be significant because he’s had limited time in the Next Gen car.

“I haven’t been in it since they narrowed down the rules package,” Larson told NBC Sports. “For me at Phoenix, I’m just going to try to learn as much as possible in a short time. 

“Stuff that will stand out to me will be the steering, the brakes, just the comfort in the car. …  I’m sure we’ll do some longer runs, see how the car handles differently than it would have with the other car. There’s just a lot to learn in a day and a half.”

Kyle Busch also has had limited time in the car and will use this test to further familiarize himself with the vehicle.

“It’s all about trying to get laps and repetitions,” Busch told NBC Sports. “Continuing to give the information to the engineers and the guys who work on the car to get it comfortable and set up how you need it to be to go out there and have a fast car in the races.”

NASCAR has had organizational tests for the Next Gen car on the Charlotte Roval (October), Charlotte oval (November and December) and at Daytona (January). 

This marks the first organizational test with the Next Gen car at a track 1 mile or less in length. This also provides teams a chance to test the car on the track that will host the championship race in November. 

“It will be interesting to see if we’re shifting on the oval, how hard you can turn into Turn 3, a straight corner entry vs. Turn’s 1 rounded entry,” Kurt Busch told NBC Sports. “Excited to go to a short track just to see (the car’s) feel.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has spent time in a simulator preparing for this test with his JTG Daugherty Racing team. 

“For us, the old cars, you kind of floated it down into the corner in Turn 1 and then kind of carried your momentum,” he told NBC Sports. “Then you tried to back your corner up into Turn 3, so you could get to the gas sooner and get off Turn 4 with some good throttle and speed there.”  

“In the simulator, I was playing around … floating it into the corner. I played around with driving it really far into the corner and using a lot of brake because our brakes are so good compared to the car we ran previously. That’s something that I’m looking forward to getting to Phoenix and seeing what the difference is going to be like.”

Also at the test will be Bubba Wallace, who had offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. He has not been in the Next Gen car since the October test at the Charlotte Roval. He told NBC Sports last week that his shoulder is “100%” and he’s ready to go.

Cup teams compete Feb. 6 in the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Teams will race Feb. 17 in the Daytona qualifying races in preparation for the Feb. 20 Daytona 500.