Here’s What Drivers Are Saying About NASCAR’s Next Gen Cars

NASCAR is updating its race cars to the Next Gen chassis for the 2022 season. Throughout this season, drivers have been conducting tests with Next Gen car prototypes. Some of the NASCAR drivers have concerns, but others are guardedly optimistic. Here is what they have to say.

Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch are concerned about the heat in the car

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, talks with Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Here's What Drivers Are Saying About NASCAR's Next Gen Cars | Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
Denny Hamlin talking with Kurt Busch | Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

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Nearly every driver who has tested the NASCAR Next Gen car has noted how hot the cabin is. 

“I can’t express how hot it was,” Denny Hamlin said. “It’s a big, big concern, obviously. It’s difficult because it’s the way the car is designed.”

After testing the Next Gen car, Kurt Busch explained the change in the car design leading to the hot cabin: “It’s now a split exhaust system, so it comes out of the left, and the right, which means the exhaust goes right underneath the driver on the left side. We need better insulation, more venting, and a cooler situation.”

Hamlin, both a driver and team owner, is concerned about safety with the hot Next Gen car. He explained, “I think you’re gonna have to really make some big changes to it, something that will allow us to finish races without having major issues.”

Joey Logano is curious about the crash rating of the NASCAR Next Gen Car

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AAA Insurance Ford, prepares to drive during Service King qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 6, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. Here's What Drivers Are Saying About NASCAR's Next Gen Cars | Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images
Joey Logano in his #22 Ford Mustang | | Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images

It is essential to drivers that the NASCAR Next Gen cars will be safe during a crash. Therefore, new chassis must not only be strong during an impact but also crumple in a way that protects the driver.

An early crash test had disturbing results. NASCAR did not publish the results, but a Redditor asked if the test dummy was essentially “killed.” NASCAR driver Chase Brisco responded, “Correct.” He later deleted his comment.

NASCAR engineers learned from this early crash test and continue to adjust the space frame chassis. Joey Logano said, “The car looks strong, which is good in a lot of ways. But in other ways, you’ve got to have some crush zones. So I think we’re all curious to see what the numbers come back at.”

Denny Hamlin admitted he still has lingering questions about safety. The driver said, “I’ll have to see all the information.” That said, Hamlin knows the Next Gen car project is going forward. He concluded, “We’re going to race it. We’re all going to have to get comfortable.”

Bubba Wallace is excited about the NASCAR Next Gen car

Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 McDonald's Toyota, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 04, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. Here's What Drivers Are Saying About NASCAR's Next Gen Cars. | Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Bubba Wallace at Talladega | Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Of all the drivers who tested the Next Gen Car, Bubba Wallace is one of the most optimistic.

NASCAR engineers attempted to reduce turbulence and make the Next Gen car easier to pass. In addition, they increased the downforce while allowing the teams to build higher horsepower engines. According to Wallace, the new spec “just closes up the gap, from 20th on back.” The driver predicts, “We could have the majority of the field close together and racing and trying to whatever they can to get to the lead.”

Some of the teams are worried about tuning a brand new chassis. Wallace says, “It’s different, but it’s a race car at the end of the day.” He is confident in his new 23XI teammates tuning the new car saying, “we’re going to figure it out.”

Wallace even said of the new dual exhaust, “The car sounds really cool.” Overall he said of the Next Gen car, “I’m excited about it.”

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