Grant Halverson | Getty Images
Grant Halverson | Getty Images

Next Gen tire tests planned for Bowman Gray Stadium, Wythe dirt track

CONCORD, N.C. — A top NASCAR official in charge of the Next Gen car’s development said that Goodyear tire tests are planned for two short tracks — historic Bowman Gray Stadium and Wythe Raceway’s half-mile dirt track.

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John Probst, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation, spelled out other details — some final, some in-progress — for remaining tests of the NASCAR Cup Series’ 2022 vehicle Monday. The news came during Day 1 of the Next Gen car’s first organizational session at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The tire test for the Next Gen car at Bowman Gray is intended to prep for the Feb. 6 Clash at the Coliseum exhibition, which will be held in Los Angeles at a similar quarter-mile paved layout. Dates for that test at the Winston-Salem, N.C., venue have not been confirmed, Probst said.

The Wythe Raceway test will be held on the high-banked half-mile dirt layout in Rural Retreat, Va., on Nov. 16. Camping World Trucks driver and dirt-track veteran Stewart Friesen will drive the Next Gen car there to prepare for Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt-track event April 17. Probst said the selection of Friesen as the test driver was designed to prevent a Cup Series regular from getting a sneak preview of the Next Gen car’s performance on dirt.

An additional tire test is planned at a to-be-determined date for Atlanta Motor Speedway, which is undergoing a full repave and reconfiguration ahead of its two NASCAR race weekends next year.

Organizational tests had previously been announced for this week at the Roval, Nov. 17-18 at Charlotte’s oval layout, and Dec. 14-15 at Phoenix Raceway. Probst said an organizational test had also been established for Jan. 11-12 at Daytona International Speedway, in what could be considered a revival of the Preseason Thunder winter test days that last ran in 2014.

Probst said that three more organizational tests are likely to be scheduled, one at Martinsville Speedway, one at an intermediate-sized track (Las Vegas or Kansas, Probst indicated), and a third track also TBA — a road course, World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and Homestead-Miami Speedway among those under consideration. “So we’re working through those scenarios, but there’d only be four total — Daytona counting as one of them next year,” Probst said.

The prospects of seeing Cup Series cars at Bowman Gray for the first time in 50 years, even if only for testing, has the ring of nostalgia to it. The tight circuit known as “The Madhouse” is NASCAR’s first weekly track, having hosted events since 1949. NASCAR’s top division competed at Bowman Gray from 1958-1971, and founder Bill France Sr. was active in the promotion of its earliest race meets.

The proposed quarter-mile track at the Los Angeles Coliseum takes inspiration from Bowman Gray Stadium’s layout, a flat quarter-mile around a football field. But a tire test there prompts the question of whether a similar one-off event could one day happen with Cup Series cars at the Madhouse.

“That’s fascinating you say that, but that’s for another part of our company to work on. I would say that that is right now 100% in preparation for the Coliseum. I think that it’s not a case that we’re going there, I don’t expect it to go more than about four or five hours. We just want to go there, turn a bunch of laps just to make sure that the tires — when we’re going through formats for that event — I think that we just want to know, can we run 150 laps in a row, can we run 75 laps in a row?”

Probst also hinted that a special guest appearance was possible.

“I think I won’t ruin it, but I think we’ll have a pretty cool driver for that, too. It’ll be a good story. … It’s not finalized yet, but it’ll be pretty cool.”