NASCAR unveils next generation cars with increased road-relevance
Last night, NASCAR unveiled the next-gen Ford Chevy and Toyota set to replace the current models as soon as next year.
Having been in development for a few years now, the next generation of NASCAR competitors were officially unveiled yesterday at The Park Expo in Charlotte.
Combining a stock rolling chassis identical to each model and manufacturer-made silhouette chassis, the new cars are very much different to the original ethos of stock car racing. That being said, the next-gen Mustang GT500, Camaro ZL1 and TRD Camry are designed to look more relevant to their road-going cousins.
With that in mind, the cars feature the same styling cues as the models they represent. Compared to this season’s cars that favour aerodynamic efficiency over road relevance, the new cars look far more aggressive and should get fans excited about the vehicles once again.
Whereas the current cars have significant skew in their bodies to favour left-hand turns on oval tracks, the new competitors have far more symmetrical setups as standard. This, coupled with the car’s wider tyres, is set to put emphasis on mechanical grip rather than aero-based downforce. The thought behind the change in philosophy is that the new generation will make the driver a more important piece in the puzzle.
Just like with other motorsport categories such as Formula 1 and the LMP1/Hypercar class in FIA WEC, NASCAR has focused on making the cars better to drive when following a car ahead. Behind all cars at high speed is a zone of low-pressure. With less air to push the car into the ground and cool the various elements of the car, drivers have trouble staying close to one-another. The new cars will sit two inches higher than the previous cars and will feature less disruptive floors to reduce that dirty air.
Just like the current trio of racecars, the new ones will feature low-downforce and high-downforce packages to be used at different track types. The packages will also come with restricted power, high and lower figures respectively. Though the exact numbers haven’t been officially communicated, those in the know are suggesting horsepower figures to be in the region of 670 for the Superspeedway tracks and 550 for ovals shorter than 1.5 miles and road courses.
Under the manufacturer-built shells will be much more up-to-date chassis. From improved brakes to independent rear suspension and lighter wheels made out of aluminium instead of steel, the cars are getting closer to resembling modern vehicles. Moreover, the new cars make the move to five-speed sequential boxes instead of four-speed manuals used by the current cars.
In terms of the spectacle, all cars will now be fitted with 360-degree cameras so fans can keep an eye on their favourite driver.
Finally, NASCAR’s ongoing push for a safer sport has led to many safety improvements in the next-gen models. More absorbent foam bumpers have been fitted to the front and back of the cars and the reinforced tubing has been redesigned from a circular shape to a rectangular one in the hopes that it will absorb more energy from high-speed impacts. The flaps we have become used to seeing on the current cars’ roofs will remain whilst an additional flap has been fitted to the underside of the diffuser to prevent cars getting air when going backwards on the superspeedways like Daytona.
A hybrid NASCAR?
Even NASCAR is accepting the fact that massive V8 engines can’t live forever. Although the cars set to enter competition in 2022 will still be powered by the traditional throaty motor, NASCAR president Steve Phelps has said that a hybrid powertrain in development could be ready by 2024. Though the exact details on what that would be are as yet unknown.