New sales pitch: Next Gen puts showroom-style relevancy back on track

Next Gen All 3

Win on Sunday. Sell on Monday.

The sales motto has returned.

With Wednesday’s unveil of the Next Gen car for 2022, it is clear NASCAR plans to put the “stock” back in stock-car racing. The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Ford Mustang and Toyota TRD Camry feature three individualized bodies, and their initial visual display closely reflects each of their showroom counterparts. Once again, the weekly race car closely matches the everyday street car.

“If you look at the cars from the ’90s and ’80s, whatnot, you could tell what type of car it was,” NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin said. “If they were all white, you could tell that’s a Pontiac whatever. These, if you weren’t here, they look different. Like it’s not just the same car with Toyota headlights and taillights. These cars are different. All three of them have a very distinct and different look from the front and back.

“It doesn’t matter what the color scheme is. It’s not the same car with different decals on it, that’s for sure.”

NEXT GEN IN PHOTOS: Chevrolet | Ford | Toyota

That was a priority from the very start.

Next Gen discussions began in January 2019. Originally, the car was supposed to make its on-track debut in 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the timeline back a year. That delay actually helped with development beyond design.

“It was the technical task of, OK, as we move through this, how are we going to get to a level playing field on the aerodynamics side?” said Brandon Thomas, who led the Next Gen project for NASCAR. “How are we going to get our version of racing to where the OEMs can have this branding but we’re not going to have one OEM design something into their car that can be heavily manipulated and deliver on performance?”

Important questions to prevent unfair advantages, and the manufacturers helped provide answers collectively. They, too, wanted more style relevancy. Because at the end of the day, they’re trying to sell a product through the sport of racing. And in order to do that, there needs to be a connection between a fan and the brand.

Representatives from each manufacturer were at the reveal in Charlotte, North Carolina, to share their thoughts on what this means for their future.

  • David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development: “There’s no mistake we’re racing a TRD Camry. I’m proud of the progress that the industry has taken towards that; even with Gen-6, so much better than what we’ve raced in the past. This is a revolutionary, another revolutionary, step forward. I do believe the mom or dad driving this beast of a TRD Camry is going to take more pride in our success.”
  • Eric Warren, director of NASCAR programs for General Motors (Chevrolet): “Now that we’re going to have the closeness between the race car and Camaro, we’re going to race it as long as Camaro exists because it’s the closest connection between the race car and production car, which is exciting for all the fans, Camaro owners and customers.”
  • Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance: “We think even for an F-150 customer, if it looks more like a Ford Mustang, it is more clearly Ford to them, and they’re going to be happy and proud of Ford on track in that Mustang and go buy a F-150 on Monday. It is good for the brand, just not that nameplate.”

RELATED: Next Gen and the future of safety in NASCAR

This mindset revert could also bring new manufacturers to NASCAR, which is seen as a positive to those already in the garage. The more, the better. For everyone. A win over even more competitors would just further assert dominance for a manufacturer, and the more manufacturers involved would lead to better financial support and security for NASCAR.

All good things — or so it seems right now. Only time will tell as Next Gen tests continue and races begin. The car’s official on-track debut will be the 2022 Daytona 500 in February.

Until then, regular Camaros, Mustangs and Camrys remain in the showrooms and on the streets. Don’t be fooled.

“It looks like you can drive it down the road,” Logano said. “The cops might pull you over, but it has the same look. To that point, I say: Finally.”