CONCORD, N.C. — Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. got their first taste of NASCAR’s Next Gen car slated for the 2022 Cup Series season on Monday.
The pair participated in the first of a two-day test session at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. Busch and Truex opened the week testing separate cars on the 2.32-mile oval/road course layout. Taking a day in between to transition track configurations, Wednesday’s session will be held on the 1.5-mile D-shaped track.
PHOTOS: Scenes from the Next Gen test
Busch is piloting the “Prototype 3” car prepared by Richard Childress Racing in conjunction with NASCAR in both sessions. The third prototype, or “P3” as it’s referred to internally, features an ECR engine and was previously tested by NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway and Dover International Speedway.
“It’s been a fun, exciting, interesting day,” Busch said during a break in Monday’s session. “Feels like the first day of school because of how different the car is. With the sequential gearbox, that’s the most fun. I love shifting through the gears.”
Monday’s session served as the first time multiple Next Gen cars have been on the track at the same time, while NASCAR’s third prototype was featured on a road course for the first time. The intention of Monday’s test was to experiment with different tire combinations for Goodyear in an effort to locate the right code for 2022. According to Busch, tire sets for Watkins Glen International, Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course and Sonoma Raceway were of particular focus, along with other road-course specific components.
“It accelerates quick, it stops quicker, it turns quicker, it’s nimble,” Busch said. “All the lap time that’s been gained is through the infield section with this independent rear suspension and the ability to shift quicker. Really, the car is more effective and the car is more sensitive to changes and to feel … you feel everything more vividly.”
Truex is testing the prototype built by Action Express, an IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship team, with a Ford Performance engine. The car was last on track at Daytona International Speedway’s road course in August.
Truex said he was “pleasantly surprised” with the reaction of the car on Charlotte’s Roval, noting the Next Gen car is suited for road courses and it’ll be a bigger challenge on the oval track Wednesday.
The most substantial changes Truex noticed include bigger tires, sequential shifting with more gears in the transmission and bigger brakes.
“It does everything a little bit better,” Truex said. “A little bit easier to drive in general around the road course. It turns really well. We’re having a few issues with the steering on the big track. If the car bottoms out, it really goes haywire, but otherwise, it‘s all been good, and it‘s been solid and fun to drive so far.”
Another talking point in Monday‘s test was the sound of the engine at speed, which provides a deeper tone than the current car. Truex explained that‘s due to a more old-school approach with the exhaust system, with tailpipes coming out of each side of the car.
“It sounds cool I think,” Truex said. “I don‘t know what it sounds like from up in the grandstands. In the pits, I feel like it sounds pretty good. I think it sounds pretty cool and badass when you‘re driving it. It‘s throaty, deep sounding.”
Busch had the same opinion regarding the power unit’s new roar.
“The sound was really cool,” Busch said. “I don‘t get to hear cars a lot because I‘m in the car racing, but to hear Truex go around and to hear the split exhaust — one pipes out the left, one pipes out the right — that‘s an old-school, Trans-Am thundering power.”
On Wednesday, the cars will run closer together in order to study how the cars will react in true racing conditions.
For Truex, that’ll be the true test.
“I think Wednesday is going to be the real test to see what I think and to see how it feels on a fast oval,” Truex said. “I think that‘s going to be a real eye-opener.”