Reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson said the Next Gen car felt similar Tuesday to the previous car, just that “everything was a little more exaggerated with (the Next Gen) car.”
Larson spoke after the first day of a two-day organizational test at Phoenix Raceway — the final test before the season begins with the Feb. 6 Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Larson said he’ll be in the car for part of today’s session before William Byron takes over. Testing is scheduled from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET today. NASCAR.com will have a livestream of the session.
Tuesday’s session was the first time Larson has been in the car since the 670 horsepower package was settled on in December. He had limited time in the car beforehand. Larson did not participate in the Daytona test earlier this month because he was at the Chili Bowl Nationals.
“I was surprised it didn’t seem too much different than the previous car,” Larson said of the Next Gen car during a press conference after Tuesday’s session. “The steering was maybe a little quicker. Just the little things happened a little quicker. Moments, when you get loose, it just happens a little quicker, stuff like that. Other than that, it felt fairly normal, which I was happy about.”
Larson also got to experience how the car reacted around another car on track Tuesday.
“The dirty air is definitely a lot different than the other car,” Larson said, echoing comments made by drivers who took part in the Daytona test this month. “That’s good to learn that. Everything was a little more exaggerated with this car.”
He did like how the car handled in the center of the corner.
“I’m sure everybody maybe felt better,” he said in his first time back at Phoenix since winning the Cup championship in November. “The tires are bigger and wider and probably have more grip. The independent suspension, I’m sure, helps as well. I’m sure it all kind of helps the center of the corner. It still feels like short track stock cars. They’re heavy and slow.”
Larson said he adjusted to the new car easily.
“I feel like I adjust to new cars and new situations pretty quickly, just from my experience in all different types of cars,” he said. “I don’t really know if I have a habit because I’m always trying to learn new things every week.”
He said learning the car will continue as the season progresses.
“You’re just going to have to learn every week,” Larson said. “It’s the same, even with the Gen 6 car that we spent years racing. You’re always changing little things and fine-tuning, so nothing is different. Just restarting.”
He’s ready to do some racing.
“I feel like we’re ready to race,” Larson said. “I was happy with the balance of my race car when we unloaded today. I’m confident that we can go out there and race and be competitive right off the bat. I think it will be fine. I’m not too concerned with anything.”