2021 Nov18 Nextgenpack Main
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

‘We know dirty air:’ Lack of pack racing not a concern with Next Gen testing

CONCORD, N.C. — It’s science, but it’s not complicated.

Most of the two-day Next Gen test that spanned Wednesday and Thursday saw cars run solo around Charlotte Motor Speedway. There were times when multiple cars were on track together, though it never came near the amount that would be seen during an actual race. And that’s OK because drivers can assume what will happen in pack racing.

“I mean, unless we defy physics, the guy out front is gonna have an advantage,” Chase Elliott said Thursday. “So, if somebody figures out how to defy physics, please let me know. I’d love to meet you. But until somebody figures that out, the front person is always gonna have an advantage. And I don’t think it matters how many aero ducts and parts and pieces we put on these things, it’s never going to give the guy in second an advantage over the guy out front.”

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The important part of testing right now is learning the Next Gen ins and outs, and there’s a lot of that left to do. Simply put, it’s a different car. The basics need to be handled before a complete product is even close to ready.

Regardless, people outside of the garage want to know what live-action racing is going to look like.

“It’s not instant, it’s not instant gratification, it’s not posted and get the reward of it,” Ross Chastain said. “Like it’s gonna take some time. We’re building this thing. So, truly, I know as hard as it is in 2021 going into 2022 of this world, that question is not ready to be answered yet.”

Chastain actually ran laps behind another driver, too. His No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet trailed William Byron’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in Thursday’s first half of on-track work. The two traded spots. Chastain noted Byron had more success following than he personally did. Chastain felt tight in turns, but it was worse when behind Byron.

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Teams later appeared to plan when to hit the track together.

“Whatever area of the corner you’re most vulnerable in is going to be more uncomfortable than it was when you were by yourself,” Elliott said. “That’s typically the case most everywhere we go in anything I’ve ever driven, so I don’t expect that to be much different.

“The other piece of that is, how many of these things do we want to tear up before we get to Daytona? Because I don’t think everybody has just an abundance of these cars and/or parts sitting around. So, we need to weigh out what’s important right now.”

Daytona International Speedway will host the 2022 points-paying season opener Feb. 20. There will be three exhibition events before then, two of which — Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 and 2 — will be held in Daytona. Next Gen’s official debut, however, will be Feb. 6 in the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

That’s when the real racing will begin.

“We know dirty air,” Chastain said. “Like dirty air existed since the second car got built in the world. So, we just have to do a better job. NASCAR knows that, and they’re working on it.”