NASCAR has declared itself happy with the speed of the prototype Next Generation car now scheduled to be introduced for the 2022 Cup Series after resuming testing this week.
The two-test on Monday and Tuesday at Dover International Speedway, with Stewart-Haas Racing driver Cole Custer behind the wheel, was the first held since March and the first since NASCAR’s decision to defer the car’s debut by a year amid uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation, said it “had to take a step back” once NASCAR was put on a two-month hiatus in mid-March due to coronavirus.
Each NASCAR test had featured a different team and this week’s test at Dover was with SHR.
“It takes a bit for new teams to get up to speed, but by the second time on track we were running lap times comparable to the race on Sunday, so we’re happy with the speed of the car,” Probst explained.
“Dover is one of our highest load tracks, so we want to put heat in the car and laps and mileage on the parts and pieces.
“Our goal is to get 500 miles on the car this test.
“The most important thing for us is to validate what we think is going to happen.
“It’s important that when the team adjusts the car, it responds in a manner that is predictable.”
Probst said the car used this week was same used in previous tests but with all production-intent parts and pieces in the driveline.
Cup Series rookie Custer (above) said he entered the test “kind of skeptical” because the entire project was new to him, but felt the test had been “really smooth”.
“It’s been different getting used to some of the things on the car, but it’s not ‘night and day’ compared with our current car,” the Kentucky winner said.
“The biggest adjustment to me has been the steering.
“Currently we have a steering box, the new car has a rack and pinion; it’s a totally different feel.
“You’re able to adjust it, and everybody will have their own preference on how they want it to feel.
“Overall, I’m really happy with how the car felt and handled.”
The test car still has a manufacturer-generic overall design, including more stock-looking wheels and wheel well, body side moulding and character lines, bonnet design and air exhaust vents built into the rear bumper.
However, Probst said that could soon change.
“Right now, the most important part of the project is getting all of the OEM bodies approved by the end of September,” he said.
“That is a really big milestone for us, and we’re on track to hit it.
“In terms of on-track testing, we still want to get to a superspeedway, and we’re looking at something at Daytona after the season ends.
“There is also significant enough interest that we may look into doing other on-track tests.”