DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR completed a two-day test of its Next Gen prototype on Wednesday at Daytona Int’l Speedway, marking the new NASCAR Cup Series model’s first on-track appearance at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
The P3 vehicle was piloted by Roush Fenway Racing driver Chris Buescher, who made multiple shakedown runs before the second day of testing was cut short due to impending rain.
One of the goals of the superspeedway test, according to NASCAR competition officials, was to establish a baseline speed in single-car runs that would allow them to balance horsepower and drag appropriately with the new vehicle.
Pole speeds at Daytona in the NASCAR Cup Series during the last half-decade have been in the 194-195 mph range and NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation John Probst noted Wednesday afternoon that everyone involved with the test was pleased with the targets that were hit.
“Daytona was an important test for us because when we come back here in 2022, we have to make sure we hit the speed targets that we’re looking for. We came here with one car and, obviously, we would like to come here with 15 or 20, but we just don’t have that many right now,” said Probst. “We played with a lot of horsepower levels and drag levels to hit our target speed, which we were able to do pretty easily.
“We did that (found target speeds) early in day one,” Probst noted. “Then (we) spent the rest of the test trying some new things on steering and also doing some ride-height sweeps, just to get some sensitivities in the car to ride height. (There was) nothing surprising and all good as far as the development of the car.”
Buescher is heading into his sixth full season in the NASCAR Cup Series and this week’s Daytona test was his first opportunity to drive the Next Gen car, which is scheduled to debut at NASCAR’s top level in 2022.
The prototype Buescher drove was a collaborative effort between Richard Childress Racing and NASCAR’s Research & Development Department.
“For starters, the speed, we went through a lot of different changes to try to dial in what we know and get closer on what we don’t know,” Buescher said. “To try to have a competitive race and still do it within a reasonable speed. Just worked through a couple little nuance things that are just a lot different and, honestly, it’s a little bit of just mind over matter as far as shifting, trying to make sure you keep pulling backward for the sequential stuff, which was really neat. I really enjoyed using it and got better as it went, learning what it can and can’t do there by the end.
“The brakes are terrific and I know this isn’t even a short-track set-up, but they stop extremely well,” Buescher continued. “There’s not going to be any issues getting to pit road and not having the stopping power, just going to be a matter of not spinning out. Obviously, Daytona single-car is not the most fun kind of testing, but a lot was learned. I’m glad I did it.
“Even if it’s as little as going back and looking at the car we have at Roush, that we’ve been working on and sitting in, and trying to figure out what we feel like is the right thing to do from my input where the pedals and stuff need to be. Definitely a good test for me. I’m glad I got to drive the thing before we start testing late next year; I’m glad I got the opportunity.”
Probst is hopeful that some of the things learned from this week’s test at Daytona will translate to other types of race tracks as NASCAR moves closer to the Next Gen car’s competitive debut.
“I think some of the stuff we found in the car is very promising for some of the other tracks we’re going to take it to,” Probst said. “So if anything, we may try to get on a local track up in the Charlotte area for a couple hours to verify what we found here translates to some other track types. Right now, we’re working with the OEMs and with the teams to establish what our testing schedule will look like next year. We will be working with Goodyear to do a couple more tests with the car, but it will be coming out of the development phase and we’ll be focusing primarily on the tires.
“We’ll probably do three or four tire tests in the first half of next year for Goodyear.”