By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
The next generation of stockcar used in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series could make its’ debut within the next few years, with a new powertrain close behind.
“I think it’s still possible to do something for 2021 for a new car,” Mark Rushbrook, Global Director of Ford Performance stated.
The Gen 6 car currently used by the Cup Series was introduced in 2013. It replaced a widely unpopular Gen 5, ‘Car of Tomorrow,’ which instituted a wide range of safety improvements. The Gen 5 car was first introduced in competition in 2007.
While the safety has improved greatly, the Gen 6 car both in the technical design and in the powertrain still uses outdated technology. Fuel injection was introduced to the Premier Series in 2012, phasing out the carburetor. The last American-made street model car to use a carburetor was produced in 1990. The NASCAR Xfinity Series still uses carburetors.
“We are definitely in support of a new car, a generation 7 car,” Rushbrook admitted. “The things that we are looking for are more product and technical relevance than what we have today. As much as we like that we were able to make our new car look like a Mustang, we would like the ability to do even more in that area. In terms of what you see on the outside of the car, we would like to see a few changes, nothing major.
“A few changes under the car for technical relevance. We want to make sure that we can keep using our technical tools and learning like we do today. We don’t want to lose that with any changes. I think that’s the right step for the sport to take to get a new car in those different areas. After that step is taken, then look at something for the powertrain.”
“I think it’s too much to do the engine at the same time, but I think it’s something to follow after a new car,” Rushbrook continued. “It’s easier to help with relevance, and if we do it right, help control costs to keep the sport healthy.”
Although the Gen 5 car increased driver safety, it took away brand identity from the OEMs, which returned in the design Gen 6 car. The design of the Gen 7 car could potentially increase brand identity.
Of the three OEMs currently in NASCAR, Chevrolet and Ford compete with models based on coupes, the Camaro ZL1 and Mustang GT respectively. The Toyota Camry in contrast is based on a sedan. Currently, the greenhouse of the Gen 6 car is closer to the sedan.
“We’re definitely willing to help NASCAR and the other OEMs as much as we can, and as much as they allow us,” Tommy Joseph, Aerodynamics Supervisor for Ford Performance said. “I think it is important that everybody cooperates on a generation car like that. It’s extremely difficult for anybody to go it alone, for NASCAR to go it alone, so they need the help and support of the OEMs as far as car architecture and design, rules and rules enforcement.
“We need everybody to agree on it. As soon as they are ready to get into the aerodynamic and technical field, we will be ready to help as much as we can. If it’s for 2021, 2022, we need to start getting ready now.”
Joseph explained what differences Ford Performance’s design studio would like to see in the next generation of car.
“Stylistically, our studio commented pretty early in the process that the roofline of the NASCAR mandated greenhouse is very different than what the road car Mustang has. Now that two out of the three cars are coupes, Chevrolet’s Camaro, and our Mustang, it may make sense to change that roofline, greenhouse from a sedan to more of a fastback. Of course, we would have to get all of the OEMs, or a majority, to agree. That is one stylistic change that would make sense.”
The powertrains that is currently utilized in NASCAR competition are purpose-built V8 pushrod race engines. While parts on those engines are not used on current road cars, Ford does utilize data and information gathered from NASCAR in its’ four-cylinder EcoBoost engines. Ford’s various trucks still use V8 engines as well.
“I think it’s an exciting time,” Doug Yates, CEO and President of Roush-Yates Engines, said. “At the end of the day, we have to keep the OEMs excited about racing. The production relevance piece is something that I think needs to be addressed going forward with the bodies.
“What I love about the IMSA Series is that when you go down to the Rolex is that last week there were 19 different manufacturers there. All of the cars look and sound different. I don’t know if that fits exactly with NASCAR because it’s just a different level of competition and it is not a BOP series, and we don’t want it to be a BOP series. I think something in between is the right answer.
“We’ll try to work hand-in-hand with NASCAR to figure out what that looks like. I always tell my staff that if I walk into the shop 20 years from now and nothing has changed, we haven’t done our job, and it’s the same with the racecars and the engines. When we open up the hood five, 10 years from now, it needs to look a little bit different than it does today. It needs to look a little more production based.”