MOORESVILLE, N.C. — After working through many challenges this season due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NextGen car for the NASCAR Cup Series is scheduled for a 2022 debut.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps confirmed during the annual state of the sport address at Arizona’s Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 7 that the sanctioning body’s plan is to introduce the new car to open the 2022 Cup Series season.
The introduction of the NextGen car was originally slated for 2021, but that plan was shifted dramatically when the COVID-19 pandemic forced a two-month sports shutdown from mid-March through mid-May.
After racing resumed at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, it became clear that a large enough supply of parts for the NextGen project simply wasn’t going to be available to introduce the new car for teams next year.
“The hard part was that we were confident that we were going to introduce it (the new car) in 2021,” Phelps explained. “Then it became very clear that we couldn’t. It really has to do with ‘are we going to have the parts and pieces in order to make this car, to build it at scale in order to have enough cars to race?’ That’s what it comes down to.
“As of right now, that answer is absolutely yes,” Phelps continued. “We are on schedule. John Probst and his team have done a great job working with our OEMs, with our teams, to get us to a place where we feel confident where things are.”
NASCAR will continue its development of the NextGen car with a pair of test sessions next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one Nov. 16 on the ROVAL layout and one Nov. 18 on the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval.
Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will each pilot a prototype, marking the first time multiple NextGen cars have been on the track at the same time.
The NextGen car is intended to change the business model of the sport, lowering the cost of competition and opening the door for new owners to enter the Cup Series.
Belief in that shift has already enticed several new team owners, including NBA legend Michael Jordan and former driver Justin Marks, to commit to the NASCAR Cup Series ahead of the introduction of the NextGen model.
More owners, such as Xfinity Series team owner Matt Kaulig, could follow when 2022 rolls around.
That’s a positive sign, Phelps noted, of the long-term health of the sport at its highest level and NASCAR’s relevance in the overall sports landscape moving into the future.
“We have new ownership coming into this sport. That new ownership comes with different levels, right? Then you have different drivers affixed to those new owners. Between the Michael Jordan situation with Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace, the situation with Justin Marks and Daniel Suarez, the (Matt) Tifft and B.J. McLeod (team) … these are kind of all across the spectrum,” Phelps noted.
“That’s a good thing. Do I believe we are positioned well to continue that relevance? I do,” he continued. “I think we’ve seen this year that there is a significant number of new fans who are participating in this sport. Between the positions that we have taken (as a sport), the great racing that we’ve had, the fact that we came back first, all those different pieces created this relevance. Do I think we’re positioned to continue that? I do think we’re positioned to continue that.
“I’m bullish on what the future looks like because of all of those factors.”