The NASCAR Cup Series season may be over, but a pair of champions were still busy at work. On Monday, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. participated in a test of NASCAR’s Next Gen car, set to début in 2022, on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. A second session will take place on the oval on Wednesday.
It is technically the seventh-generation car’s second test on a road course, but the first under NASCAR sanction; the other, on the Daytona road course in August, was conducted by IMSA team Action Express Racing. The test is also the sixth by NASCAR as the sanctioning body continues to analyse the car’s runs on various track types. The first five came on ovals, with Austin Dillon being the first tester in October 2019 at Richmond (short track), followed by Joey Logano at Phoenix in December (one-mile), Erik Jones at Homestead in January (1.5 mile), William Byron at Fontana in March (two-mile), and Cole Custer at Dover in August (wide one-mile).
The Roval test is the first to feature two cars, with Truex piloting one built by Action Express while Busch is in a car prepared by Richard Childress Racing and NASCAR. RCR has been involved in the testing process since it began last year.
“It feels like the first day of school because of how different the car is,” Busch stated in his media availability after the test. “The sequential gearbox, that’s the most fun. I love shifting through the gears sequentially. […] The brakes are much bigger and the car can stop a lot quicker. We actually have a hybrid horsepower in. We’re not a full 750, but we’re not the low 550. But overall, the car’s first impression is fun, it’s exciting and different, and I encourage everybody to dig into it.”
As expected, the Next Gen cars for the test continue to retain much-anticipated components like the six-speed lever sequential gearbox rather than the traditional H-shaped shifter, double exhaust pipes (that Busch compared to Trans-Am Series cars), a deeper engine sound that Busch and Truex both acknowledged, and a new independent rear suspension.
While NASCAR has used the H-shape transmission for a long time, Busch noted he does not believe drivers will struggle to adapt to the new sequential setup, pointing out vehicles like Supercars Championship cars and sandrails that also use it.
Busch also noted the car felt “more effective and more sensitive”, stopping short of saying it was “on steroids”.
“The biggest thing, obviously, is I think it’s less horsepower than what we raced here,” Truex said in regards to the car’s performance around the Roval. “The tyres are bigger. It’s got more gears and the transmission is sequential, it’s got really big brakes. […] I guess it does everything a little bit better. It’s a little bit easier to drive in general around the road course. It turns really, really well.
“We’re having a few issues with the steering on the big track. The car bottoms out and all the steering really kind of goes haywire, so we’re working through that. But otherwise, it all feels good and it’s been really solid and fun to drive so far. I would say that speed-wise, with less horsepower, we’re actually as fast as we were with the current car.”