The “Rebirth of Stock” has begun in the wild world of NASCAR, as the series looks to future-proof its grid, maintain current OEM interest and potentially, attract more competitors. These are the next-gen racers for 2022 and beyond.
The big thing you notice at first is that these seem to strengthen links with their road-going counterparts. The cars have bigger wheels, now alloy rather than steel, a more coupe-style look and ride two inches higher off the ground. This helps make them more relatable to the road car buyers and therefore, should shore up the relevance of the series to OEMs. The new cars are also symmetrical, rather than skewed and feature wider tyres. There’s an increased emphasis on mechanical grip, rather than aero and ‘right-side sideforce’. At the back, there’s also now independent rear suspension, in place of a solid axle.
“I think that at the highest level, one of the main goals is just that the sport remains attractive to our current OEMs, teams and fans, but also attracts new ones,” said John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation. “It’s sort of your overarching goal. We know to be attractive to our OEMs, we need to be relevant to them.”
It’s fair to say NASCAR is perhaps not the byword for progression and innovation in motorsport but gen-7 is moving with the times. There are for the first time in NASCAR, provisions for hybrid power in the future. The timetable for when such systems would debut does however “remain uncertain for now”.
“It could be ’24,” says NASCAR President Steve Phelps. “I think frankly the opportunity to have a new OEM partner will largely depend on what happens with that hybrid engine.”
Of course, NASCAR is a sport and therefore the consumability by spectators is a big consideration. To that end, the next NASCARs will be more connected and in higher definition than ever before. As the cars are lower with more limited visibility, drivers will also now be using a screen and camera to see behind.
“Our goal is to have more cameras and more camera angles than ever, so that we can engage our fans and get them inside the car with their favourite driver,” Probst says.
“We’re working out how to get more data out of the ECU, getting more camera angles, higher-definition cameras, 360 cameras — you name it — so that when this thing goes live in 2022 that we’re bringing our fans something they haven’t seen before, from the car perspective but also from the broadcast perspective.”
Safety is of course a big concern. To that end, energy-absorbing front and rear composite bodywork joins a redesigned cage and refined aero provisions to deploy in the event of a loss of stability at speed. Hardier carbon bodywork will also stand up to what is expected to be closer, slightly more rough-and-tumble racing in these new cars.
“This new car’s going to allow them to get into the wall a little bit, get into each other a little bit, without really any worse for the wear as far as the performance of the vehicle,” Probst said.
“We’re really hoping that this encourages them to get a little bit even more aggressive, if that’s possible. Our drivers are pretty aggressive already, but we think this composite body will really allow them to bump and bang a whole lot more.”
So, the new NASCARs. Modernised, more relatable, more relevant, more connected, safer, more attractive to other possible OEM entrants and potentially, more fun to race and to watch racing, than what’s gone before. Does that sound good to you?