By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A vision on what should be the most pivotal future in NASCAR history was finally realized Wednesday afternoon as NASCAR unveiled the Next Gen cars for the Cup Series that are set to debut in 2022.
The unveil kicked off with one Cup driver per manufacturer pulling up to the stage, displaying its seventh generation car at full song. Naturally, the visualization was a sign that the old saying of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” may ring true again.
Defending Cup Series Chase Elliott represented Chevrolet’s new and curvaceous Camaro ZL1. Former Cup champ Joey Logano brought in a rather wide and pleasing Ford Mustang. Finally, three-time Daytona 500 champion and 23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin showcased the sharp looking Toyota Camry.
Chevrolet’s Director of NASCAR programs Eric Warren commented that its Camaro ZL1 provides a much stronger look to their street cars. It’s one of the reasons why Bowtie Brigade are sticking with the Camaro for as long as those are still being produced.
“The Next Gen Camaro has a much stronger link to the production Camaro ZL1 in terms of styling integration, improved proportions and relevant technologies,” said Warren. “From an engineering standpoint, this is a seismic shift. It’s a completely new car that really brings with it a lot of opportunity from a technical standpoint.”
Behind the scenes, Ford’s Global Director Mark Rushbrook, said he hopes the new Mustang will provide some resonation on its Blue Oval customers.
“A lot of work has been done behind the scenes to make sure this Next Gen Mustang remains relevant to our customers,” said Rushbrook. “As the automotive industry continues to change, we’ll have the ability to keep up in the racing world without having to go through a complete overhaul or redesign of the car. This is something we’ve been waiting for and we’re glad the time has finally arrived.”
President of Toyota Racing Development David Wilson stated there will be see some challenges along the way, but ready to evolve.
“For Toyota and TRD, we’re committed to the principle of continuous improvement and we believe that’s reflected in this Next Gen TRD Camry,” said Wilson. “While we know the margins available with this new race car are smaller when it comes to adjustability, we know our race team partners and our team at TRD look forward to the challenge of learning about this car and discovering the performance opportunities that will help put the TRD Camry into victory lane.”
On the surface, the new looks left social media in awe with mostly positive thoughts. The looks highlight great emphasis on the OEMs having tremendous influence in making the Cup cars replicate its street car counterparts. Not only that, the cars are visibility lower with the deck lid being shortened and it’s width resembling a look of a coupe.
When it comes to the details of the Next Gen machines, there’s a slew of changes, specifications and even pit stops.
Gone is the five lug nut wheels that fans have come to know for decades. Instead, it’ll be a single lug nut that’s common in the world of open wheel and sports car racing. Wheel size will see an increase from 15 to 18 inches. Those will be made on forged aluminum and as a result of the larger wheel, it allows larger brakes to improve track performance.
Specs have also been upgraded to match today’s tech from passenger vehicles, including the much talked about independent rear suspension, as well as rack and pinion steering. Sequential gearing will be a staple ground to the cars thanks to its new transaxle that combined both transmission and rear gears. This new feature was done to incorporate electrification.
Safety features still reign supreme on its chassis. The way the front and rear bumpers appear are done to increase safety and it doesn’t end there. Both front and rear clips are bolted to the center section, resulting on a much easier car service and repairing damage.
Finally, the Next Gen will provide something NASCAR hasn’t seen before. The connectivity will allow onboard cameras on all cars. From a fans perspective, it’ll provide more real-life data. Similar to what other racing disciplines, notably Formula One, have had over the years.
While more testing will be done in the coming months, next year’s Cup campaign will symbolized for what they hope is a positive change. NASCAR president Steve Phelps assured everyone who tuned in for the announcement it can and will be done.
“Truly this car is for you. This is a significant moment for our sport. This car is more relevant and includes more innovation than any car in NASCAR history,” Phelps during the unveil presentation. “The styling of the car is clear. I mean, they look unbelievable. Just so incredible to finally be here.
“We really wanted to get back to a promise that we had made to the fans, which is to put the “stock” back in stockcar,” Phelps continued.
“That was something extremely important to us and our fans. But just as important to our fans is the racing on the racetrack. It’s hard to believe that the racing could be any stronger than it is last year and the first 11 races this year, but this car has features that will make it even better.
“Simply put, this car will make our sport healthier and stronger. It’s an exciting day for our industry and our fans, and I’m proud of all the work that went into bringing us to today.”