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

2021 April6 Darlingtonnextgen2 Main
Alejandro Alvarez
NASCAR Digital Media

As the Next Gen car for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series prepares for its first taste of competition, 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.
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

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 MainMarch 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
Torey Fox | NASCAR Digital Media

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
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

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. The same day, Ryan Blaney got his first taste of the Next Gen car in its 12th test, a tire-testing session at Texas Motor Speedway that coincided with vehicle’s official launch. | COVERAGE: Read about the reveal

June 2021: Wheel-force testing (Charlotte, Dover)

The data-collection process continued in June with separate tests of vehicles equipped with wheel-force transducers at Charlotte Motor Speedway on June 1-2 and Dover International Speedway on June 28-30. Kurt Busch drove the Chevrolet wheel-force car at Charlotte, and Ross Chastain was the Chevy representative at Dover. Veteran David Ragan drove the Ford wheel-force test car in both sessions, and longtime test driver Drew Herring participated in both tests for Toyota.

June 30, 2021: Crash test (Talladega)

NASCAR officials organized a real-world test of the car’s crash capabilities at Talladega Superspeedway, fitting a robotically driven Next Gen vehicle with a crash dummy. Findings and data were sent to an independent panel of experts in the biomechanics and safety field for their review. NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller dismissed rumors that preliminary findings showed the car had performed poorly in the test. | COVERAGE: Crash test held

July 19, 2021: Crash-test findings

Competition officials told reporters that a meeting with a panel of crash-test experts went well, and that the findings cleared the way for initial distribution of chassis to teams. Chassis distribution was scheduled to begin by the end of the week, the first week in a two-week break in the 2021 Cup Series schedule. | COVERAGE: Chassis distribution to start

Aug. 27, 2021: New number spot

NASCAR officials indicated that the placement of the side number on Next Gen vehicles will be moved forward for 2020, closer to the front wheel and away from the middle of the door. The confirmation came after 23XI Racing’s announcement that veteran Kurt Busch would join the team in 2022, using a video that showed the number placement on his No. 45 Toyota for next season. COVERAGE: Moving the number forward in 2022

2021 Sept17 Next Gen Main Image
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

Sept. 7-8, 2021: Daytona test with eight teams

Eight teams participated in a two-day test at Daytona International Speedway that served to help Goodyear find the right tire for NASCAR’s return to the 2.5-mile track in February 2022, and NASCAR wanted to make sure it was able to hit its target speeds and learn more about the draft on the superspeedway. | COVERAGE: Eight drivers in two-day test | Scenes from the test | Video of drafting session

Oct. 11-12, 2021: First organizational test at Roval

NASCAR teams conducted their first organizational test, putting 21 cars through their paces during two days on the 2.32-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. Teams got their first opportunity to tune on the new model, and NASCAR competition officials worked to resolve issues with a steering vibration and heat inside the car. | COVERAGE: Day 1 wrap; updates released | Photos from Roval test | Day 2: Live-show replay

2021 Oct27 Next Gen 2 Main Image
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

Oct. 26, 2021: Hot laps at Bowman Gray

NASCAR’s newest car took to one of stock-car racing’s longest running weekly tracks at Bowman Gray Stadium. Tony Stewart drove the car during the Goodyear tire test portion of the day, and racers-turned-broadcasters Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer took turns shaking down the car during the afternoon — all ahead of next year’s Clash exhibition on a similar quarter-mile track at the L.A. Coliseum. All three drivers got their first impressions from behind the wheel of the new model, which felt right at home at the historic stadium, which hosted the Cup Series from 1958-1971. | COVERAGE: Next Gen wrap-up | Photos: Bowman Gray | Video: Dale Jr.’s turn behind the wheel

Nov. 17-18, 2021: Back at Charlotte to test on the oval

The second organizational test took place at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s oval layout. Austin Dillon’s early Day 1 wreck showed that the Next Gen performed as designed when it comes to safety. Drivers acknowledged that the cooling issues and steering issues have been improved from previous tests. Day 2 saw practice pit stops as part of the action. | COVERAGE: Wreck offers significant learnings | On-track pit practice | Day 1 wrap | Day 2 wrap | Photos: Scenes from Charlotte

Dec. 15 and 17, 2021: Dialing it in on the Charlotte oval

Teams tested four configurations as officials and the rest of the NASCAR industry zeroed in on a baseline rules package for the 2022 Cup Series during two days of testing at the 1.5-mile oval. Three of the four configurations used a 670-horsepower target and the rear spoiler settings were decreased to a final height of 4 inches, centered not offset. Teams made group runs in simulated races with each configuration, and a number of drivers battled spins, scrapes and other incidents as they searched for the limit. “The cars are on edge, which is a good thing,” said Tyler Reddick, who had his own adventures with the No. 8 Chevrolet. Drivers, teams and officials all met post-test to discuss their findings. | COVERAGE: Test focuses on 670-horsepower target | Drivers react after two-day test | Photos: Scenes from Charlotte

2021 Dec20 Next Gen Rules Main Image
James Thomas | NASCAR Digital Media

Dec. 21, 2021: Base rules configuration is set

NASCAR officials delivered the baseline rules configuration to teams, drivers and the rest of the stock-car racing industry, revealing that a 670-horsepower target engine output and a lower-downforce 4-inch rear spoiler would be used at a majority of Cup Series races in 2022. The most recent Charlotte test was key to determining that rules configuration, but so was the positive feedback and collaboration during the car’s development to reach that direction. That setup will be used at short tracks, road courses and intermediate-sized tracks in 2022. | COVERAGE: Base rules package unveiled | Social-media kudos emerge

Jan. 4-6: Atlanta tire test

All three national series tested at the repaved and newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway. The early reviews consider it a new race track as track officials reshaped the turns with steeper banking – 28 degrees, up from the existing 24. For the two-day test, NASCAR officials set a target of 510 horsepower (down from the base 670) and used a 7-inch rear spoiler (an increase from the 4-inch rear spoiler that will be standard on most tracks). | COVERAGE: Drivers ‘starting from a blank sheet’ | Scenes from the test

Jan. 11-12: Daytona test sets superspeedway package

The first-day-of-school feel to preseason NASCAR Cup Series testing at Daytona International Speedway had some element of a class reunion. In the meantime, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took part as he drove the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and NASCAR officials confirmed the superspeedway rules package configuration for 2022 – an engine-output target of 510 horsepower combined with a 7-inch rear spoiler to keep speeds in check. The package will be used at Daytona, Talladega and Atlanta. | COVERAGE: Superspeedway rules set | Unofficial speeds from test | Dale Jr. logs laps | See drafting practice take place | How the rearview camera works | NASCAR’s Probst looks ahead to Phoenix | Scenes from test

INSIDE THE NEXT GEN: Tire and wheel system | Composite components | Door foam upgrade | Modular design

MORE: Tougher penalty system on tap for 2022

2022 Jan26 Next Gen Main Image
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

Jan. 25-26: The final test at Phoenix

Cup Series teams returned to Phoenix Raceway for the last preseason test before the Next Gen car’s 2022 competition debut. Teams and drivers became more familiar with the baseline rules configuration (670 target horsepower, 4-inch rear spoiler) at the site of the season-ending race. “We feel like we’re in a really good spot,” was the word from NASCAR officials about the new model’s readiness for the coming season. | COVERAGE: Optimism after final tune-up |
Scenes from the test | Larson returns as champ
| Unofficial test speeds

Feb. 6, 2022: Clash at the Coliseum

Teams got a first taste of the Next Gen car in race conditions in the Busch Light Clash’s debut at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The exhibition event was announced Sept. 15, a one-off to be held on a temporary quarter-mile track. COVERAGE: Next Gen part of Clash plans

Feb. 20, 2022: Daytona 500

Drivers, start your engines – and start a new era. The annual season-opening Daytona 500 saw the formal debut of the Next Gen car that, as you can see by the timeline above, was years in the making. Austin Cindric went down in history as the race winner.