NASCAR doesn't want Next Gen car to be "easy to drive"

NASCAR wasn’t hiding its pleasure hearing several drivers talking about the difficulty of driving the Next Gen car at the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval test.

In fact, you could say it was music to their ears.

“Yes, certainly,” said John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation. “We don’t want the cars to be easy to drive. We’ve always said we want the best drivers running up front.

“I think if you look at a lot of the changes that we’ve made to the car, a lot of the side-force that used to be in the car is gone so it’s not as forgiving as its been before.

“You saw some of that (Wednesday) morning.”

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Austin Dillon wrecked in Turns 1 and 2 early Wednesday and a handful of cars spun out on the track without damage, including Denny Hamlin and new Cup Series champion Kyle Larson.

Drivers such as Alex Bowman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. talked Wednesday about the difficulty of adjusting to the new car, particularly the lack of side-force that comes from the bigger 18-inch wheels, larger tire sidewalls and the symmetrical shape of the car.

“I’m not saying those incidents were all car, but definitely the cars are a bit edgier,” Probst said. “I expect over time we’ll see through the set-ups that will get better.

“Certainly with the lack of side-force, that will be something (the drivers) will have to get used to with respect to how the car drives, how it recovers and if it’s loose, how far you can let it go before it slides.”

Wednesday’s reported speeds from the test were about 1.5 to 2 seconds off the pace of this year’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.

While the speeds were slower – and the lower horsepower noticed by drivers – the differences in the Next Gen car still altered the ability of drivers to push the car to its limits.

Stenhouse said the speeds felt “pretty slow … but when you do have a moment, it actually almost feels like you’re going faster.”

Probst said NASCAR would reduce the size of the rear spoilers during Thursday’s test from 8 to 7 inches to evaluate the corresponding change in speeds (which should be faster).

Right now, Probst said a change made to the cars prior to this test – the addition of rear window vents to address a heating issue that arose in a previous test at Daytona – are adding drag and slowing the cars.

“We’ll run that and see where it gets us,” he said.

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