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Erik Jones shares thoughts on sequential shifter, aero differences in Next Gen car

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Over the last two days Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones took part in the latest test of the Next Gen Cup car at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Jones, the third Cup driver to pilot the prototype, shared his thoughts on the test while confirming the car has a sequential gear shift in place of the traditional H-pattern shifter.

“Obviously, it’s a lot different than what we’ve raced in the past, and a different way of getting to where you need to be,” Jones said in comments provided by NASCAR. “I was a bit unsure of how it was going to drive and how it was going to react.”

Jones described the test a “sort of a baseline systems check” for the car on an intermediate track after tests at Richmond Raceway (Austin Dillon in October) and Phoenix Raceway (Joey Logano in December.)

Of the vertical sequential shifter, Jones said: “The shifting has been fun, it’s been different. I’ve never done anything other than normal H-pattern shifting in my career. You can bang right through the gears. We did a restart at the end of the day (Wednesday) and it was fun learning about that and how you can push that gear box. That really gets you excited for the road courses and what it’s going to be capable of there.”

Jones said the Next Gen car, scheduled to debut next year, is a “big aero change” compared to what the Cup Series cars have now.

“We have a lot of sideforce in our cars now and there is a lot to lean on – when you get loose the car kind of corrects itself and straightens itself out,” Jones said. “This car doesn’t really have any of that. The quarter panels are so short and there’s no offset in the car – it’s very symmetrical – so there’s not a lot to lean on in this car.

“I think a lot of the aero changes they’ve done are going to help as far as racing goes, especially racing in a pack. Other than that, as we were working on things, some driving characteristics are similar. I think there is definitely more grip to be had as far as what the car is capable of. I think as far as development goes, there is going to be a lot more mechanical grip available than what we currently have.”

John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation, discussed the car’s development after three tests.

“We continue to work in the wind tunnel, we’re developing rear diffusers to generate more rear downforce,” he said. “One of the big things we have here that we didn’t have at Phoenix is we added some of the lift-off devices that we’ve developed over the winter, including roof flaps. We also have a few other related items in development that aren’t on the car right now such as flap-down doors for the diffuser to get the liftoff speed even higher than what we run today.”

Of the reasoning behind going to Miami for the third test, Probst said the 1.5-mile track “has a lot of different lines you can take through the corner. The progressive banking here allows you to start at the bottom, and if the car is tight you can ride it up and complete the turn. This is a very forgiving track for us to come to and continue learning about the car as we develop it.”

During the two-day test, Probst said NASCAR learned that “some traditional ‘rules of thumb’ don’t apply to the new car.”

“We’ve got the parts to deal with that,” Probst continued. “But those are important lessons to learn as we go to new track types. Moving to a larger track, you really look at gearing to make sure we have the right RPMs, obviously safety is important when you come to a track like this and speeds get up in the 190-mph range. You really have to be prepared if something were to happen where a car gets sideways or backwards that it stays on the ground.”

The car’s next test is scheduled for March 2-3, the two days following the race weekend at Auto Club Speedway, the 2-mile track in Fontana, California, with wide, sweeping turns.

“There are some logistical reasons that make sense for us to stay and test,” Probst said. “But it’s also important to get some rubbered in conditions of what it’s like in a race. We want to replicate that as best as we can so when we go back to race, there are no new lessons to learn. We still look forward to taking this to superspeedways and road courses, we have a lot to learn there as well. We’ll go back and iterate on what we have now, but we feel like we’re in a good spot. We’re going to keep developing and working on what we’ve got, and we think we’re going to end up with a really good product.”

Probst said NASCAR has already begun production of a “Phase 3 prototype” that will include “all of the lessons learned” from the previous tests.

“Once that is built, we’ll probably start using (the cars used in the first three tests) as a ‘second car’ to start simulating cars in traffic to see what we can learn from that,” Probst said.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said during championship weekend in Miami that the car is expected to be delivered to teams in July of this year.

Sources told NBC Sports’s Nate Ryan in December that at least three companies are being strongly considered to build the chassis for the Next Gen car, including Joe Gibbs Racing.

 

Erik Jones set for Next Gen car test in Miami

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Erik Jones will be the driver in the third test of the Cup Series’ Next Gen car this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The test is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at the 1.5-mile track and is open to ticket holders of the March 22 Cup race there.

Jones, who is entering his third Cup season with Joe Gibbs Racing, is the first Toyota driver to test the Next Gen car, which is scheduled to debut in 2021. Jones follows Austin Dillon‘s (Chevrolet) test at Richmond Raceway in October and Joey Logano‘s (Ford) test at Phoenix Raceway in December.

After two tests on flat ovals 1 mile or less in length, this will be the first time the car will see action on a banked oval greater than 1 mile.

After the Phoenix test John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation, said it was a “logical progression from Richmond” for testing the car.

“A lot of the testing we needed to do before we head to a track like Homestead – which is where we’re headed next – wasn’t completed at Richmond,” Probst said. “For us it was a really good progression from Richmond loads and speeds, and now we’re creeping the speeds up to start really testing out a lot of the mechanical parts and pieces on the car.”

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said during championship weekend in Miami that the car is expected to be delivered to teams in July of this year.

Sources told NBC Sports’s Nate Ryan in December that at least three companies are being strongly considered to build the chassis for the Next Gen car, including Joe Gibbs Racing.

In a video he posted to Instagram, Logano detailed his reaction to driving the Next Gen car.

Third Next Gen car test set for Jan. 15-16 at Miami

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NASCAR confirmed Monday the third test of the Cup Series’ Next Gen car will take place next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The two-day test, which is closed to the public, is set for Wednesday, Jan. 15 and Thursday, Jan. 16. A driver for the test has not been confirmed.

This will mark the first time the car, which is scheduled to debut in 2021, has been in action on an oval track larger than one mile.

Austin Dillon took part in the first test in October at Richmond Raceway, a .75-mile short track. Joey Logano drove the car in the second test in December at Phoenix Raceway, a flat, 1-mile oval.

After the Phoenix test John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation, said it was a “logical progression from Richmond” for testing the car.

“A lot of the testing we needed to do before we head to a track like Homestead – which is where we’re headed next – wasn’t completed at Richmond,” Probst said. “For us it was a really good progression from Richmond loads and speeds, and now we’re creeping the speeds up to start really testing out a lot of the mechanical parts and pieces on the car.”

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said during championship weekend in Miami that the car is expected to be delivered to teams in July of this year.

Sources told NBC Sports’s Nate Ryan last month that at least three companies are being strongly considered to build the chassis for the Next Gen car, including Joe Gibbs Racing.

In a video he posted to Instagram, Logano detailed his reaction to driving the Next Gen car.

Joey Logano: Next Gen car will put car ‘more in the driver’s hands’

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In the midst of a two-day test of the Cup Series’ Next Gen car at ISM Raceway, Team Penske driver Joey Logano provided some insight into the car Cup teams are scheduled to begin racing in 2021.

Logano is the second Cup driver to test the car after Austin Dillon did so in October at Richmond Raceway.

“We’re trying things on different extremes – a lot of downforce, and then little downforce and then figure out what’s going to make the best racing,” Logano said in a media release. “Then you go from there to make the next step, bring some more cars. We’re still in the preliminary stages, but we definitely have some cool pieces to the car.”

Compared to what he races now in the Cup Series, Logano said a major difference in the Next Gen car is in its brakes.

“The brakes are way bigger on this thing – it stops really good, where our brakes now are way smaller as we try to take weight out of them,” Logano said. “So trying to get used to that feel will be one thing.

“Some of the steering feeling is way different, but that’s still one of the things we want to adjust. When the car gets loose with this Next Gen car, it doesn’t come back until the driver steers the car back – it doesn’t fix itself. And that puts it more in the driver’s hands. And I like that piece.

“It’s going to be challenging, but I think you’ll see more mistakes on the race track which makes, in my opinion, better racing, and more passing opportunities.”

Logano added that due to a bigger wheel, a wider tire and differences in the body, “your natural reactions are wrong. And you have to be able to adapt quick when you feel something instead of trying to let the car fix itself.”

John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation, provided an update on how much work had gone in the Next Gen car since its initial test, including having to adjust the car for the much taller Logano.

“We had a really good test at Richmond, and then said, ‘How can we make the car better?’,” Probst said in the media release. “We came up with 60-plus things we could do to the car. Not all of the things could be implemented into the car we have now, but some of them are in the design phase. We effectively updated a lot of the aerodynamics on the car.”

Probst said that ISM Raceway, a relatively flat 1-mile track, is a “logical progression from Richmond” for testing the car.

“A lot of the testing we needed to do before we head to a track like Homestead – which is where we’re headed next – wasn’t completed at Richmond,” Probst said. “For us it was a really good progression from Richmond loads and speeds, and now we’re creeping the speeds up to start really testing out a lot of the mechanical parts and pieces on the car.”

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said during championship weekend in Miami that the car is expected to be delivered to teams in July of next year.

Sources told NBC Sports’s Nate Ryan last month that at least three companies are being strongly considered to build the chassis for the Next Gen car, including Joe Gibbs Racing.

In a video he posted to Instagram, Logano went into more detail on his reaction to driving the Next Gen car.

 

NASCAR wraps up two-day test for 2021 debut of Next Gen Cup car

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For all intents and purposes, the 2021 NASCAR Cup season began this week.

NASCAR officials and Cup driver Austin Dillon spent the last two days testing the Next Gen car – which is set to make its debut for the 2021 season in the Daytona 500 – at Richmond Raceway.

The car has been in development for more than two years, according to NASCAR. The new look, according to a media release, will “honor stock car racing’s roots with bodies that resemble their street versions while incorporating new vehicle technology and innovation.”

This is an important milestone for the Next Gen car and the future of stock car racing,” John Probst, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, said in the media release. “There are so many new systems on the car from the front to the back that our main goal with this test was to log laps and put miles on them.

The test has met – and even exceeded – our expectations, and we are well on our way to developing the final iteration of the car.”

MORE: See the Next Gen car for 2021 season … well, sort of

Dillon gave high marks to the car.

I really enjoyed driving the car,” Dillon said. “I like the way that it looks, you can see the finished product down the road. The OEMs can make the body look really good, like a street car that you see on the road today. When it comes together and they all get their cars on the track, we’re going to have something to work with that also looks really good.”

At the present time, only two prototypes have been built. The other car was tested in the wind tunnel for the first time on Oct. 1. It is scheduled for another wind tunnel test later this week, according to the media release.

A second on-track test is also likely to occur before the end of the year, but NASCAR did not give any details on who will drive the car or at what track it may be tested at.

We have a very comprehensive test plan,” Probst said. “We will be doing extensive wind tunnel testing to ensure liftoff speeds are appropriate before moving to larger tracks. As we move into 2020, we will begin testing on intermediate tracks, superspeedways and road courses.”

While several components of the current car will remain in the Next Gen edition, other major elements including manufacturer’s body designs, are still in development, according to the media release.

Andy Petree, Richard Childress Racing’s vice president of competition, detailed the team’s involvement in the car’s development Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

“It was a tremendous effort,” Petree said. “I feel privileged to have a part of it and for our team and for NASCAR and the whole industry to trust us with that. That first car means a lot to us. We put a lot of resources in it, by the fact we weren’t in the playoffs. We could do that. We built this car here, we built the chassis, we built basically everything that wasn’t manufactured. It was a third-party design, complete clean piece of paper design. To come out and do what we did yesterday was a tremendous accomplishment and I think everybody felt pretty good about that first run with that all new, brand new car and systems.”

Petree said data from “literally everything” on the car was documented.

“Everything on the car was instrumented,” Petree said. “Brandon Thomas (Managing Director, Vehicle Systems at NASCAR) is kind of the one that’s been the spearhead at least between RCR and NASCAR. He used to work here, he’s a great engineer, a really smart guy they hired to do this. There’s a bunch of people on the NASCAR side, John Probst, all his guys. Then on our side, we had literally every part of our development group working on it.  … Justin Alexander is our head of R&D and he was basically kind of, you’d call the crew chief over the operation of getting the car built and then taking it to the track. He’s the one that interacted with Austin. They basically ran it like any normal test when we got there.”

Petree then compared the car’s design to what the Cup Series currently runs.

“If you look at what we’ve raced up until this point, it’s been an evolution,” Petree said. “From the front suspension being kind of based on the ’64 Chevelle frame. As far as the geometry and the rear suspension is a mid-60s Chevrolet truck suspension. … That’s what our car’s been designed and modeled after for years. Now we’ve got the chance, it’s totally clean sheet of paper.

“It’s built with nothing but racing (in mind) and current, most modern technology put into.”