The COVID-19 pandemic may have delayed the arrival of the NASCAR Cup Series‘ Next Gen car to 2022, but NASCAR is still eager to get development and track time in. On Monday, the sanctioning body announced the seventh-generation vehicle will resume testing a week from now; the session will be a two-day test at Dover International Speedway, which is hosting all three national series during the upcoming weekend. Meanwhile, IMSA team Action Express Racing spent Monday conducting a test with its own Next Gen car on the Daytona International Speedway road course.
The Dover test will be the Next Gen car’s fifth NASCAR-sanctioned test, each of which has been on a different track to examine the car’s capabilities in various circuit types. Austin Dillon provided the first test in October 2019 at the short track Richmond Raceway, followed by Joey Logano at the one-mile Phoenix Raceway in December. The intermediate, 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted Erik Jones‘ test in January, while William Byron ran the car at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway in March. Dover is a wide, one-mile track.
Cup rookie Cole Custer will perform the Dover test, the second Ford driver to run the Next Gen car after Logano. Although the testers represent different teams, their Next Gen test car features a generic body as manufacturers will provide their own wrinkles. Custer, currently twentieth in Cup points with a win, has enjoyed success at Dover with a victory in his final Xfinity Series start there in 2019. His Stewart-Haas Racing team-mate Clint Bowyer had been scheduled to test the car at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March prior to the season being paused by COVID-19.
Although the Dover test is not until next week, the Next Gen car received a slightly different test on Monday at the Daytona road course, where Action Express Racing fielded its own prototype. The road course had recently hosted NASCAR national series races for the first time. AXR, a two-time winner of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, has ties to the stock car world via NASCAR CEO Jim France; France’s son J.C. also raced for the team.
Felipe Nasr, the 2018 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship titlist for AXR, and Saturday’s Xfinity race winner Austin Cindric lent their services to the test. While the test is not a NASCAR-connected session and AXR’s vehicle was built by the team itself, it provides NASCAR with another avenue to receive information on the car’s road course performance.
“The Action Express test allows a sports car team to learn about the architecture of the Next Gen car and explore any opportunities to adopt new technologies,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development John Probst explained. “The test also benefits NASCAR — it helps us check the durability of parts, helps with tire development and gives us data from a road course test.”
Kickin’ the Tires acquired photos from the test, with the corresponding article noting that the AXR Next Gen car had a “much deeper, or throatier,” engine sound than the current Generation-6 Cup cars.