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What Makes the Next-Gen Car So DIFFICULT for Drivers?

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What’s Happening?

The Next-Gen car is one of the most controversial aspects of modern NASCAR, like any new race car is. While some love aspects of the car, there are other things they dislike about the car. Chief amongst those voices are the drivers, seeing as they are the ones driving the cars every week. What makes this car so controversial amongst drivers?

  • The Next-Gen car was created to cut costs and increase competition. NASCAR did this by forcing teams to buy parts of the car from single suppliers instead of developing it themself.
  • However, this has led to some things drivers do not like. Whether that be the design of the car itself or the philosophy behind “Next Gen”.
  • Fans are split on the Next-Gen car. They have many of the same issues that the drivers have.

The Lack of Adjustability

The Next-Gen car is, by design, a very tight box for the race teams to work with. The car primarily being a conglomeration of single source parts, it’s as close to a spec-series as NASCAR ever has been. While this does create close racing, this does create some controversy within the industry.

Whereas engineers, drivers, and crew chiefs once had a larger sandbox to play in and create their ideal race car, the Next-Gen car is less adjustable. This can be a problem for drivers who rely on making their cars better throughout the weekend.

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Some of this is down to the car, but, it’s also down to a lack of practice. Some races have no practice during the weekend, so, drivers cannot adjust their cars throughout the weekend.

Now, some drivers are okay with this lack of practice and adjustability, saying that it allows smaller teams a better chance to catch up to the bigger teams, but others disagree. Check out where drivers stand on this in the article below.

Horsepower

Drivers and fans both agree that a horsepower increase would help the Next-Gen car. The current car puts out 670 horsepower, a far cry from the nearly 900 horsepower of the early Next-Gen era.

Denny Hamlin has elaborated on this more than any other driver. He believes that an increase in horsepower would help multiple areas where the Next-Gen car struggles, such as tire wear, shifting, and the short-track package as a whole.

Hamlin is far from the only driver to speak out on it. It’s the major consensus amongst fans and drivers that increasing horsepower would help the short-track package in particular.

However, NASCAR is not too keen on increasing horsepower. For now, it seems horsepower will stay at 670 for the foreseeable future.

Parity

Like adjustability/lack of practice, the parity the Next-Gen car has created has some who like it and some who don’t. On one hand, the increased parity has given drivers and teams the ability to compete for wins. Look at the strides that teams like Front Row and Trackhouse have made.

However, parity also means the field is closer together. This means that the field is ridiculously close together. Kyle Petty, for example, says that he, as a former driver, would prefer having someone to chase instead of being equal with everyone, as he said on a recent episode of Out of the Groove.

Again, parity is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows smaller teams to compete for wins. It also means that the top teams do not have the same separation they once did, making it harder for NASCAR to develop a “Superstar”.

However, the parity and horsepower issue plays into the biggest issue with the Next-Gen car, a difficulty to pass.

Difficulty to Pass

Many drivers will criticize how hard it is to pass after a race. the difficulty to pass can be credited to both parity and the horsepower issue.

When it comes to parity, when cars are close together on speed, it’s naturally tougher to pass since there is no variability in lap time. It’s tough to pass someone going the same speed. This graphic below highlights just how close together these cars are.

The lack of horsepower means that the cars cannot go as fast, which means they create more drag. The more drag a car has, the larger the effect that dirty air has, which makes it tough to pass, particularly on single-grooved race tracks.

Even within the controversy of the Next-Gen car, there are some issues that there is some small dissension on. That’s ultimately what controversy is. Will it cause NASCAR to make any big changes?

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Joshua Lipowski

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