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A Perfect Illustration of the Next-Gen Car’s Slowdown on ALL Tracks

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

If there’s one thing anyone can seemingly agree upon with the Next-Gen car, it’s that they want an increase in horsepower, and fans often point to slower qualifying speeds to show how drastic the slowdown of recent years has been. Kevin Harvick pointed out on social media how much slower the 2023 pole laps at Kansas were compared to his record pole lap of better than 197 MPH in 2014. We’ve already discussed superspeedways, but, how much slower has the Next-Gen car been on other tracks?

  • The Next-Gen car has only 670 horsepower in it compared to nearly 900 horsepower at the peak of the Gen-6 era. However, Cup Series cars have been slowing down since the Gen-6 era.
  • For this list, we will take a look at all the different track types the Cup Series has raced on since the beginning of the Gen-6 era. How drastic has the slowdown been in recent years?
  • Fans generally love to see cars going faster. A slower car isn’t quite the same spectacle, especially when fans are accustomed to certain speeds.

Short Tracks (Ovals <1.0 Miles)

EraHighest Pole SpeedLowest Pole Speed
900 HP (2013-2014)131.362 MPH (Bristol 2014)98.440 MPH (Martinsville 2013)
750 HP (2015-2018; 2020-2021)131.407 MPH (Bristol 2015 AND 2016)96.254 MPH (Martinsville 2018)
550 HP (2019)131.713 MPH (Bristol)97.830 MPH (Martinsville)
670 HP (2022-Present)128.382 MPH (Bristol 2022)94.153 MPH (Martinsville 2023)

Qualifying speeds at short tracks have remained relatively the same in terms of the range between the fastest and slowest tracks. However, speeds have generally decreased in the Next-Gen era on short tracks, despite more horsepower in the Next-Gen era. The Next-Gen era has produced the slowest qualifying speed on a short track of this area, coming at Martinsville in 2023.

Road Courses

EraHighest Pole SpeedLowest Pole Speed
900 HP (2013-2014)129.466 MPH (Watkins Glen 2014)94.986 MPH (Sonoma 2013)
750 HP (2015-2018; 2020-2021)127.839 MPH (Watkins Glen 2015)92.363 MPH (COTA 2021)
550 HP (2019)127.297 MPH (Watkins Glen) 95.712 MPH (Sonoma)
670 HP (2022-Present)125.298 MPH (Watkins Glen 2023)89.577 MPH (Chicago 2023)

Much like short tracks, road courses haven’t seen a drastic drop-off in speed, but, it’s been there. The Chicago Street Race in 2023 saw the slowest qualifying speed, but, that was an inaugural race at the track. Sonoma, which has been on the schedule every year, saw a pole speed of 92.111 MPH in 2022, the slowest Sonoma has had since the introduction of the Gen-6 car. Regardless of the track, the Next-Gen is slower.

Short intermediates (Ovals Between 1.0 and 1.2 Miles)

EraHighest Pole SpeedLowest Pole Speed
900 HP (2013-2014)164.444 MPH (Dover 2014)135.922 MPH (New Hampshire 2013)
750 HP (2015-2018; 2020-2021)160.644 MPH (Dover 2017)133.077 MPH (New Hampshire 2017)
550 HP (2019)166.684 MPH (Dover)136.384 MPH (New Hampshire)
670 HP (2022-Present)162.191 MPH (Dover 2024)124.781 MPH (New Hampshire 2022)

This is the first track type where we see a subtle increase in speed compared to a Next-Gen era. Dover in 2019 saw the fastest speed on this track type in this era, which was over 4 MPH faster than the fastest of the Gen-6 era. However, the floor of the Next-Gen has been far lower, with New Hampshire in 2023 producing only a 124.781 MPH lap.

Intermediates (Ovals Between 1.25 Miles and 1.5 Miles)

EraHighest Pole SpeedLowest Pole Speed
900 HP (2013-2014)199.299 MPH (Texas 2014)177.677 MPH (Homestead 2013)
750 HP (2015-2018)200.505 MPH (Texas 2018)173.863 MPH (Homestead 2018)
550 HP (2019-2021)189.707 MPH (Texas 2019)172.487 MPH (Darlington 2019)
670 HP (2022-Present)190.369 MPH (Texas 2024)160.687 MPH (Nashville 2023)

Intermediate tracks have remained relatively stagnant with their top speed since the 550 HP package era was introduced. The Next-Gen car has less downforce, so, despite more horsepower, the cars go slower in the corners, keeping the average speed the same. The lows are, once again, far lower with Nashville above, but, they are a new addition to the schedule. Homestead in 2022 has the next slowest speed on this track type at 166.389 MPH.

Long Intermediates (Non-Restricted Ovals Over 2.0 Miles)

EraHighest Pole SpeedLowest Pole Speed
900 HP (2013-2014)206.558 MPH (Michigan 2014)180.654 MPH (Pocono 2013)
750 HP (2015-2018)203.361 MPH (Michigan 2018) 176.897 MPH (Pocono 2018)
550 HP (2019-2021)190.471 MPH (Michigan 2019)173.494 MPH (Pocono 2019)
670 HP (2022-Present)193.382 MPH (Michigan 2023)170.629 MPH (Pocono 2022)

Michigan has been one of the, and, if not, the fastest track on the calendar since its’ repave in 2012. From the highs of over 206 MPH in 2014, Michigan has not seen a qualifying lap crack 194 since the 550 package era. However, the increased horsepower of the Next-Gen car has seen a slight increase in speed there. At its slowest, the Next-Gen is, once again, the slowest of the packages with its Pocono speed in 2022.

Superspeedways

EraHighest Pole SpeedLowest Pole Speed
900 HP* (2013-2014)199.322 MPH (Daytona 2014)193.723 MPH (Daytona 2013)
750 HP* (2015-2018)201.293 MPH (Daytona 2015)190.544 MPH (Talladega 2017)
550 HP* (2019-2021)194.582 MPH (Daytona 2020)191.261 MPH (Daytona 2021)
670 HP* (2022-Present)182.022 MPH (Talladega 2024)180.591 MPH (Talladega 2023)
*Engines are restricted at all of these tracks

Superspeedways have seen the most drastic speed increase in the Next-Gen era. With the increased drag of this package, the cars are not nearly as fast in a straight line, meaning the cars are well over 10 MPH slower than they were in the Gen-6 era. In the draft, the cars still speed at nearly 200 MPH.

Conclusion

Generally speaking, the Next-Gen car is slower than the Gen-6 car, but, the 550 package era sometimes cannot reach the speed of the Next-Gen. This is down to the qualities of the Next-Gen car.

The Next-Gen car has 120 more horsepower than the 550 package Gen-6 cars, increasing top speed. However, the Next-Gen car has significantly less downforce on non-restricted race tracks, which means the cars cannot hold the same speed through the corners. This means the overall lap time slows down even if the potential top speed is higher.

Yes, the Gen-6 car is generally slower, despite the subtle increase in horsepower from the Gen-6 era. Is this a sign for NASCAR to give the cars a power bump?

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Joshua Lipowski

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