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Everything You Need to Know About the Phoenix Test: Day 1 AND 2

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What’s Happening?

NASCAR is testing their short-track package at Phoenix Raceway. The much-anticipated test is meant to improve the racing on short tracks and road courses, where the Next-Gen Car has struggled. NASCAR intends to test aerodynamic changes, eliminate shifting on road courses, and come up with tires.

You Need to Know:

  • This test at Phoenix has been highly anticipated by fans since it was announced. NASCAR tested at Phoenix during last offseason to improve the short track package, and they most recently tested the new package at Richmond Raceway in the summer. Of these test packages, however, NASCAR is continuing to refrain from increasing horsepower.
  • The drivers at the test are Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Christoper Bell, Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson, and Corey LaJoie. There are two drivers for each manufacturer.
  • Fans are generally excited to see NASCAR trying a new short track package, but, they do not like that NASCAR is not adding horsepower. As a result, many wonder if NASCAR can achieve the intended result.

Day 1 Part 1

According to Cole Cusumano, NASCAR spent the first half of day one doing baseline and tire testing. However, they intend to test aerodynamic changes until 6 p.m. local (8 p.m. ET). However, there were plenty of storylines from the first part of the test.

The Rear Diffuser Will Stay

While the early portion of the test was not about the major components being tested, there was some news dropped on what NASCAR would not be testing. Cole Cusumano said that NASCAR did not plan on running tests without the rear diffuser.

This may be a surprise to some. NASCAR tested a package where they used no diffuser at Richmond Raceway in the summer. Dr. Eric Jacuzzi had this to say about it to Kelly Crandall of RACER Magazine.

It was a pretty good, pretty positive outcome. We got some positive comments that the diffuser not being there made the car a little more forgiving on corner entry. It felt like they could slide around a little more and move around. We were pretty happy with that, for sure.

Dr. Eric Jacuzzi

It seems that NASCAR is set on keeping the diffuser, at least for now. One reason might be that it’s possible getting rid of the diffuser may mess up how other aerodynamic test pieces would work. It’s also possible that there was something in the test that NASCAR found later that they did not like. Still, this is a disappointment to some who were hoping NASCAR would ditch the diffuser.

Eliminating Shifting

Eliminating shifting is one of NASCAR’s stated goals of this test. Bob Pockrass noted that NASCAR has thought about black flagging drivers who shift, but that has not been implemented.

That seems like a difficult rule to enforce considering how many times drivers will shift for reasons other than improving lap time. What if a driver has to slow down for a flat tire or they get loose? How would NASCAR make sure they don’t trigger a penalty for that? Plus, monitoring all cars on track for a shift happening at any moment seems difficult for one official to handle.

That’s probably why NASCAR has not gone that route yet. Could NASCAR test that in the future? It’s certainly possible, but, they seem focused on doing it with the rules package instead.

Toyota and Ford’s New Race Cars

For the first time since their unveilings, Ford’s new Mustang Dark Horse and Toyota’s new Camry XSE took to the track. This comparison shows just how different these cars look in real life.

This test will not tell us much about how these cars will perform in 2024. However, they do showcase how each car is a bit different. How each performs will be interesting to watch for as the 2024 season rolls on.

Day 1 Part 2

The second half of day one was for NASCAR to test certain aerodynamic changes to the cars. Here are the highlights from the second half of day one so far.

The Diffuser

Cole Cusumano had this short of the rear diffuser of Erik Jones’ car. It appears there may be fewer strakes on the diffuser. If you zoom in, it appears there are only 3 or 4 strakes.

If NASCAR is not getting rid of the diffuser, maybe they can counteract its effect by getting rid of strakes. Those strakes are what cause the “Ground Effect” that allows the diffuser to work. NASCAR took this to more extreme measures late in the day with a very simplified diffuser.

This diffuser is much more simplified. Instead of multiple long strakes, Cusumano notes only 2 fins on the bottom of the diffuser. While NASCAR is not eliminating the diffuser entirely, they are simplifying it. NASCAR tried the car with no diffuser at the Richmond test, and the driver feedback was “positive” according to Eric Jacuzzi of NASCAR.

Removing that much of the rear diffuser decreases the downforce of the car. This makes it harder to drive, which, theoretically, should make it easier for drivers to move around and pass each other.

The Splitter

Cusumano also highlighted the new splitter that NASCAR tested late in the day on Tuesday. It’s tougher to see major differences with the splitter than it was with the diffuser.

The splitter was the major thing NASCAR was working on during the Richmond test in the summer. It seems, again, they are taking what they learned from the Richmond test and are trying to replicate the result.

Best Quotes

Cole Cusumano caught up with Dr. Eric Jacuzzi, Ryan Blaney, and Erik Jones following day one. Here is what each had to say.

Dr. Eric Jacuzzi talked about the goals of the test. He talked about one of the main goals of day one being getting the aero package and the tires correct.

I think, for us, it’s coming out of here and making sure we have direction on the tire, coming out with direction on the aero package that yes this is going to be neutral to positive.

Dr. Eric Jacuzzi via Cole Cusumano

Ryan Blaney was very optimistic about how day one went when he caught up with the media. He specifically complimented the new splitter and the impact it had.

We unloaded excatly like we were here in the fall with this car. Ran a couple of hours on it, then did the different splitter big difference…There’s so much downforce taken off with the new splitter.

Ryan Blaney via Cole Cusumano

Erik Jones focused more on the tires that were used during the test. He noticed a major difference between the tires used throughout the day.

Of all the tires I’ve tested over my career, by far, probably today was the biggest I’ve noticed a difference.

Erik Jones via Cole Cusumano

Now, do these “differences” that Blaney and Jones bring up mean a positive change? That will not be confirmed until the first race with the new package at Phoenix in the spring. Even if drivers notice a difference, it may not necessarily mean a better racing product.

Day 2 Part 1

Day two tested some of the same basic things as day one, but adjustments to mufflers and cooling were tested as well. Devon Henry of Sports360AZ broke down everything being tested. However, there was one major thing that was not tested.

NASCAR NOT Testing a New Transaxle

Diandra posted a Twitter thread reporting that NASCAR would NOT be testing the transaxle on Wednesday. The transaxle test was intended for NASCAR to eliminate shifting on short tracks. According to Diandra, drivers and engineers agreed not to test it because of the corner speeds mitigating its’ impact and how much time it takes to change a transaxle.

No other comment has been made regarding shifting at this test. It seems NASCAR may be shelving the idea of limiting shifting at short tracks, at least for now. This is a bit of a surprise given that Steve O’Donnell and Steve Phelps both commented publicly on NASCAR trying to limit shifting.

Testing Mufflers

Cusumano reported that NASCAR was adjusting the current mufflers instead of testing brand-new ones. He also posted a comparison about how the current muffler sounded versus having no mufflers. Mufflers were used at certain races in 2023, including the Clash at the Coliseum.

Not everyone is a fan of adding mufflers to race cars. Some fans like the cars being a bit quieter, while others prefer the cars being a bit louder. Regardless of what side that fans fall on, NASCAR is testing them, and they will continue to use them.

Opinions were split on the impact of the new diffusers. Devon Henry said on Twitter that there was a “HUGE” difference, and Diandra said that she did not notice much of a difference. Kyle Larson, however, told all three that he could “definitely” tell a difference in sound, and he complimented how mufflers improve the fan experience.

Kyle Larson Comments

Following the first half of day one, media only caught up with Kyle Larson. Aside from mufflers, Larson gave comments to Cusumano regarding NASCAR not testing shifting and how the car drove with the new parts compared to November.

Regarding shifting, Larson explained his perspective on why he felt NASCAR and the drivers decided not to test anything with the gearbox or transaxle. While he did not offer much of his personal feelings, he did say the effort could have been a “Waste of time” if they did try.

Regarding the other changes NASCAR made, Larson was a bit more pessimistic than Blaney and Jones. To Larson, there was not much of a difference to him with the new diffuser and splitter on the car.

Because I wasn’t a part of the Richmond test last year, I was hoping that there would be a noticable difference in traffic, but, it doesn’t seem to be way different.

Kyle Larson via Cole Cusumano on Twitter

Now we have some different opinions amongst drivers about how the car behaves. Larson’s comments about the car driving the same in traffic could be especially concerning.

This article will be updated as the test progresses.

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