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Is There Another Solution to the Next-Gen Short Track Package?

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What’s Happening?

The Next-Gen car has been heavily scrutinized for its lackluster racing product on short tracks and road courses. The most popular solution has been to increase the horsepower, but is there another solution? Zack Stern, an aeronautical engineering major, conducted a “Thought experiment” on Twitter, where he theorized the solution may be related to side force and a potential addition to the rear of the car.

  • Stern dove deep into the aerodynamics of the Gen-6 car and what causes the dirt air issues on short tracks. He also used examples of other motorsports to explain his solution.
  • NASCAR’s reluctance to increase horsepower coupled with recent comments by other drivers make many wonder if a small bump in horsepower is enough for the Next-Gen car. If that solution is not enough, then could NASCAR get creative with these solutions?
  • Fans are constantly looking for answers to the Next-Gen short track package. Many were intrigued by the overall thoughts that Stern gave regarding the aerodynamics of the car.

Breaking Down the Solution

Zach Stern went deep into the aerodynamics of the Next-Gen car, but we will just share the highlights. Essentially, the Next-Gen car is designed symmetrical, unlike previous generations of cars which were often skewed to one side.

Stern says that this lack of skew has two effects. First, it decreases overall tire wear because the tires are not moving as much laterally as they used to.

He also mentioned how it affects aerodynamics. He compared the Gen-6 car, which was great on short tracks, to the Next-Gen car. Essentially, the less skew of the Next-Gen car means the trailing car is stuck in a larger wake of dirty air behind the car in front of them.

The solution he proposed is adding a dorsal fin to the rear of the car, like cars on other series such as IndyCar, Formula One, and sports car races. The increase in side force increases tire wear and reduces grip despite being more forgiving when the car is about to spin out.

Essentially, adding some sort of a dorsal fin down the rear window of the car could help increase side force, therefore increasing tire wear, reducing grip, and reducing dirty air. Could it work?

Looking at What Drivers Have Said

Increasing horsepower is the most popular solution to help the Next-Gen car on short tracks. However, a small bump to something like 750 horsepower may not be enough, as Tyler Reddick explained on an episode of Door Bumper Clear.

Again, this is all in sim…There was a weird knob we can work on to just basically increase the power of the car by, I don’t know, 150 horsepower? Didn’t really change much. I mean we’re talking the amount of off throttle time was decreased very little…I think you need to be above 1000 horsepower to move that needle.

Tyler Reddick

Increasing from 670 horsepower to 1000 horsepower is nearly a 50% increase. That is massive, and that could negatively impact costs. Even if NASCAR could easily increase horsepower from 670 to 750, would it achieve the results desired?

Maybe combining that small bump in horsepower with this aerodynamic change that Stern proposed is what NASCAR needs. Maybe the solution lies between both.

However, most drivers have come out and said an increase in horsepower is necessary. Denny Hamlin explained how an increase in horsepower helps out issues such as shifting and tire wear on an episode of the Dale Jr. Download. He did not mention aerodynamics, and this is a reason to scrutinize this idea from Stern.

Have Aero Changes Helped At All?

Simply put, no. NASCAR has adjusted aerodynamics each of the last two seasons, and fans still do not like the Next-Gen car. One specific example was the Richmond test held during the summer of 2023. NASCAR debuted a brand new splitter, which drivers felt did not make enough of a difference.

If aerodynamic changes continue to have minimal to no effect on the racing product, why keep testing aero? Will this solution Stern proposed work? Maybe it will, but every time an aero change is put into practice, the sentiment remains the same.

Even the Phoenix test held in December tested new aerodynamic components. The results were, once again, not great. It simply was not enough for drivers like Kyle Larson.

If every aerodynamic change has not worked to this point, why would this new one work? Then again, if NASCAR does not increase horsepower, why not take a swing at it?

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