John Probst

Pit stops will change to single lug nut in 2021 season with NextGen car

4 Comments

NASCAR will switch to a single lug nut for fastening its tire and wheel assemblies in Cup cars next season, ending decades of using a renowned five lug nut pattern.

An official told NBC Sports the move was driven by the new 18-inch aluminum wheels (3 inches bigger than the current wheel) that will be used with the NextGen car, which will make its debut with the 2021 season, and are intended to increase product relevance for manufacturers.

According to engineering analysis, NASCAR senior vice president of innovation John Probst said the durability of the new wheels decreases by 30 percent with five lug nuts.

“The answer became pretty clear that we needed to go single lug nut,” Probst said. “And I know that a lot of folks might say, ‘Well, if product relevance is your main goal, name me a car that has a single lug nut.’ I’m not sitting here saying I could, but I can name lots of cars that have 18-inch aluminum wheels. And that once we decided 18-inch aluminum wheels was the primary driver, the engineering solution was pretty clear.

(Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)

“It’s almost never the case that all five lug nuts are literally tight to the wheel, and if we don’t have five lug nuts tight to the wheel, the durability of an aluminum wheel drops. If all lug nuts could be guaranteed tight, five is a workable solution. With the pressure to do a very fast pit stop, I can’t say that we have knowledge that all five are ever completely 100% tight to the torque spec.”

Because of a higher torque, the pit gun will be applied longer to a single lug nut vs. five but still will take a shorter amount of time. NASCAR estimates that it will take roughly 0.5 seconds to remove the single lug (and the same time to reapply) vs. the 0.8-1.0 second for a top-flight tire changer removing five lug nuts (and running the pattern back on in the same time). So the move could drop four-tire pit stops consistently into the 10-second range.

Probst said most Cup teams are in favor of the move, which NASCAR hopes will allow teams to use wheels in multiple years (instead of multiple races with the current steel wheels). There has been some pushback from teams that cite the competitive advantages from investing money and time for training crews to change five lug nuts.

There also has been speculation on how such a move might impact the value of tire changers.

A Goodyear rendering of the 18-inch aluminum wheel with a single lug nut.

Unlike other racing series that use single lug nuts and allow tire changers to be in place before the stop (such as IndyCar), NASCAR is keeping the same pit stop procedures with a single lug nut. Probst said the choreography of scrambling from the right to left side should keep pit crew members in demand as highly skilled athletes who are among the most well-paid team members in NASCAR.

“Nobody’s done it, so I’m not sure anyone can have an informed opinion on how it’s going to affect them,” Probst said. “But there’s still a premium on getting from the pit wall to the right hand side of the car. That’s not going to change. You’re still going to have to get the nut off and back on as quickly as possible. That’s not going to change. You’re going to have to go from the right hand side to the left hand side of the car as quickly as possible.

“The amount of the time on a lug nut today is less than a second, but the time from the right hand side to left hand side is much more than that. So shaving off the time from the left to right side is going to have a bigger impact. I don’t anticipate myself in the near future changing tires. You’re still going to have a massive premium on speed because that’s going to determine the length of your pit stop. They’re still going to be professional athletes.”

Other notable elements from the move to a single lug nut:

–There will be no more postrace lug nut checks or lug nut penalties.

Gluing on lug nuts will become a thing of the past in Cup next season. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

–Because the lug nut will be retained in the socket, the change from five lug nuts will end the practice of gluing lug nuts to the wheels, which will cut down on prerace preparation time (thousands of lug nuts are glued to wheels before races over the course of a season). It also should save time for practicing stops as teams could rotate a few sets of wheels instead of needing to glue lug nuts on a dozens of sets for a pit crew training session at their shops.

–Teams should be replacing wheels less often because five lug nuts deliver more of a pounding than a single lug nut – particularly when they aren’t tight and the wheel wobbles (which can cause the lug nut holes to deform). Aluminum also is less forgiving than the previously steel wheels, making a switch to a single lug nut more logical.

–The single lug nut will be used for the first time Monday and Tuesday during the NextGen test at Auto Club Speedway (with William Byron). But there will be no pit stops simulated under race conditions at the test.

–NASCAR has no plans to adjust pit crew or roster sizes. Though the tire and wheel assembly will be lighter, it won’t be in a significant measure that affects how the tires are delivered to the car.

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

NASCAR
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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’

NASCAR
1 Comment

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.