NASCAR has conducted one of its final Next Gen tests at Daytona International Speedway, ahead of the season opening Daytona 500 in February. The test served to validate the engine and aero package that will be used on the Daytona and Talladega superspeedway tracks this year, as well as at the newly repaved Atlanta speedway. This will consist of engine output being capped at 510bhp and the use of a 7in high rear spoiler.
On the first day of testing, organizers staged a mock race with 16 cars participating over 10 laps, to provide a greater insight into how the Next Gen machines behaved in pack racing. The results of the race showed that the cars could run two and three wide through the banked turns, however, speeds under all conditions were down on those run in the Gen 6 era.
Rookie drivers Harrison Burton and Austin Cindric and the veteran Joey Logano topped the speed chart. Burton’s speed of 184.264mph in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford was top in the first session. Cindric’s lap of 190.621 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford led the second session of the day, over Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
NASCAR SVP for innovation and racing development John Probst was optimistic the cars were in good shape and that the new generation would bring close racing. “I don’t’ want to jinx it, but I feel like we’re in a pretty good spot to put on a good show,” he said. He conceded when the teams come back for the Daytona 500, he fully expects the cars to be faster – the team’s having picked up the intensity for the season’s biggest race.
Drivers were similarly encouraged by both the single car runs and drafting sessions. “We don’t have them quite handling the way we want yet,” Team Penske driver Logano said after the full field session. “They’re pretty new still to us. Bumping and shoving gets the cars moving around a whole lot and Kurt, myself, Denny and Ricky [Stenhouse] we were out there shoving each other pretty hard and racing like we were trying to win the Daytona 500.
“But it was fun just to try to understand what the pack is going to be like,” Logano explained. “Drafting is still drafting and a lot of the same things that worked in the past will still work now. But some things have changed. It was intense, to say the least.”