Next Gen timeline: Development, testing and launch of 2022 Cup Series racer

PostedAt: Sun, May 9, 2021 11:39 AM

Track all the significant developments in the Next Gen model’s path to a 2022 debut in the NASCAR Cup Series.

As the Next Gen car for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series prepares for its first taste of competition next season, it’s time to review the development and testing so far and to size up what’s next before the new model’s debut.

January 2019: Early discussion

The first talks about the Next Gen project begin in earnest at NASCAR’s Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina. The emphasis for the first discussions: a renewed relevance to each automaker’s production-car counterparts, budget-minded measures meant to attract new teams and manufacturers and also an improved racing product.

Feb. 4, 2019: Next Gen briefing

Our first story on the Next Gen car, then code-named “Gen-7.” Steve O‘Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, detailed the goals for the new-look model in a preseason competition briefing, establishing an accelerated timeline for a 2021 debut. | COVERAGE: 2021 the target for Gen-7 race car

Aug. 16, 2019: Big wheels keep turning

A hint of news to come as details seeped out regarding Goodyear’s work with NASCAR officials to bring a new tire to the Cup Series to accommodate a move from 15-inch wheels to 18-inch models. Again, product relevance is one of the stated goals. | COVERAGE: NASCAR expected to increase wheel diameter

Oct. 8-9, 2019: First test (Richmond)

The first Next Gen prototype hits the track for its first on-track shakedown, with Austin Dillon taking the wheel at Richmond Raceway. The public gets its first glimpse at the design as a busy camouflage body wrap attempts to hide some of the finer details. | COVERAGE: On-track test debut at Richmond | Positive early reviews for Next Gen

Joey Logano drives the Next Gen prototype, with smaller rear spoiler, near the outside retaining wall at ISM Raceway.

Dec. 9-10, 2019: Second test (Phoenix)

Joey Logano takes his turn behind the wheel at Phoenix Raceway, providing a thorough video walk-through in between test sessions. Officials from car builders Richard Childress Racing, Team Penske and NASCAR tried multiple setup combinations, cycling through different configurations for tires, spoilers and other aerodynamic features. | COVERAGE: Logano’s first impressions | Phoenix test in photos

Jan. 15-16, 2020: Third test (Miami)

After test runs on a short track then a flat one-miler, the Next Gen car gets its first laps on an intermediate 1.5-mile layout as Erik Jones wheels the prototype at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Among the observations: a noted decrease in side force, Jones said, plus the first glimpse at the sequential shifter that the new car will have. “You can bang right through the gears,” Jones said. | COVERAGE: New details in Miami session | Miami test in photos

Next Gen Tire Wheel Main

March 2, 2020: New look for lugs

NASCAR officials released the first close-up look at the new wheel design, which features a single center-locking lug nut instead of a five-lug pattern. The wheels, made by BBS, had their on-track debut in a test session at Auto Club Speedway in California. Competition officials said they anticipated no dramatic changes to the look and feel of pit stops with the design change. | COVERAGE: Single-lug wheel debuts

March 2-3, 2020: Fourth test (Auto Club)

A new prototype — dubbed P3 — is put through the paces at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway, the largest track yet for Next Gen testing. William Byron drove the vehicle, which was “probably 99 percent what we‘re going to compete with next year,” according to NASCAR officials. | COVERAGE: Learning experience for Byron | Test particulars, preview | Auto Club test in photos

April 2, 2020: Project delayed

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted the NASCAR racing season, but it also placed the development and testing schedule of the Next Gen car on hold. Shortly after a test session scheduled for March 16-17 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was canceled, officials made the decision to delay the model’s competition debut until the 2022 season. | COVERAGE: Debut pushed back

Aug. 24-25, 2020: Fifth test (Dover)

Next Gen testing resumes with Cole Custer at the wheel of the P3 prototype at Dover International Speedway. Officials measure the car’s capacity for a rough, high-load oval at the “Monster Mile,” using a setup similar to the current Cup Series car’s rules package. | COVERAGE: Custer piles on the miles

2020 Nov16 Next Gen Kurt Busch Main Image

Nov. 16-17, 2020: Sixth test (Charlotte)

For the first time, two Next Gen prototypes hit the track in the same test as former Cup Series champs Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. raced together in a two-day session — one day on the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval-road course layout and another on the 1.5-mile oval. “It does everything a little bit better,” Truex said of the car after the first test. | COVERAGE: Busch, Truex on track | Photos from Charlotte test | Post-test quote sheet

Dec. 15-16, 2020: Seventh test (Daytona)

Chris Buescher kept busy in the offseason as the driver of record for the Next Gen car’s first superspeedway laps. The single-car runs at Daytona International Speedway’s 2.5-mile layout allowed competition officials to find a baseline speed for drafting tracks, meeting that goal early in the two-day session. | COVERAGE: Superspeedway sessions for Next Gen | Daytona test in photos

Jan. 12, 2021: Eighth test (Charlotte)

Kurt Busch became the first repeat test driver, as NASCAR officials returned to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a brief session to validate some of the development work on Next Gen components. Feedback from the previous Charlotte test was more favorable for the road course than the oval, so officials re-enlisted Busch for a second shakedown. | COVERAGE: ‘Successful test’ at Charlotte

Feb. 1, 2021: Development complete

Officials highlighted their 2021 competition briefing with the statement that the development phase of the Next Gen car is complete. John Probst, NASCAR senior vice president of racing innovation, said the Next Gen bodies for all three manufacturers had been approved and outlined a timetable for the car’s 2021 slate | COVERAGE: Next Gen enters next phase

March 16-17, 2021: Ninth test (Richmond)

The Next Gen car returned to where its testing journey began at Richmond Raceway as Bubba Wallace took his first turn behind the wheel. Wallace made notes about the car’s balance and the exhaust note, and officials were pleased with the results at the .75-mile track: “Overall, the performance of the car is where we want it to be.” | COVERAGE: Return to Richmond

March 30-31, 2021: 10th test (Martinsville)

Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota each put their manufacturer-specific prototypes on track in a closed test at Martinsville Speedway. Alex Bowman (Chevrolet), Drew Herring (Toyota) and David Ragan (Ford) were the test drivers, each putting laps on the .526-mile oval and gathering data through wheel-force transducers. | COVERAGE: Manufacturers make strides

2021 April7 Next Gen Main Image

April 6-7, 2021: 11th test (Darlington)

Tyler Reddick had the wheel of the Next Gen car as Goodyear officials went to work with different tire combinations at Darlington Raceway. The historic 1.366-mile track lived up to its “Too Tough to Tame” billing as Reddick looped the P3 prototype, making slight right-side contact with the wall. | COVERAGE: Slight scrape for Reddick | Photos from Darlington test | Video: Riding the high line

April 7: Save the date

Officials set an unveil schedule for the three manufacturers’ Next Gen models, announcing the cars would debut May 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The three vehicles were on the track at Martinsville Speedway in a closed session, but their appearance and specifications were set for a full release. | COVERAGE: Watch the big reveal

May 5, 2021: Manufacturer unveil

NASCAR, manufacturers unveil Next Gen models for 2022 Cup Series in Charlotte with NASCAR President Steve Phelps, Senior VP of Competition and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O‘Donnell, Senior VP of Racing Innovation John Probst, NASCAR drivers and leaders of the manufacturers. | COVERAGE: Read about the reveal

Oct. 2021: First organizational test on tap

NASCAR officials plan to give Cup Series teams their first organizational test with their own Next Gen cars on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval layout. Two more organizational tests are tentatively scheduled after the season to allow teams to prep for 2022.

Feb. 20, 2022: Daytona 500

The Next Gen car is set to debut in its first points-paying race for the NASCAR Cup Series in the annual season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

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