NASCAR ran a test last week with a variety of configurations
NASCAR is set to return to the Bristol Dirt Track for the second time in history. This time around, they’re doing it with a brand new NASCAR Next Gen car in the NASCAR Cup Series. However, the Next Gen car itself will look slightly different than it does on traditional pavement weekends.
Last week, Stewart Friesen took the Next Gen car on the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track to test several configurations. It was only the second time NASCAR’s newest machine has seen the dirt with the previous test taking place at Lancaster Speedway.
The track itself is also different than last year. The bottom lane has less banking than a year prior. Additionally, the top lane has more banking. It’s an effort to create a multi-groove track.
Kyle Larson has already been on the track in a dirt late model. He noted that the corners appeared to be more sweeping than a year prior. He said that made it easier for him to be full throttle for the entire lap in a car designed for dirt. Yet, full throttle isn’t expected for Cup cars.
First, there’s a duct in the window which adds airflow throughout the cockpit in an effort to cool the driver inside. That duct was added in the development of the new car following heat issues.
In that test, NASCAR ran several different window options. They taped up the duct. That also ran a separate session with the windshield completely removed, replaced by a screen.
For 2022, NASCAR will keep the windshields on the machine. Officials have given the teams the option of taping off the duct or leaving it in place.
Per a NASCAR release, “In addition to the components that were previously approved, replacing the windshield with a mesh screen was also tested but not chosen at this time due to the requirement for more research from the safety side and the likelihood of having to build some type of deflection cover for the driver’s hands.”
Additionally, mud flaps were run in the test. And now confirmed for the 2022 event, mud flaps will be required for all on-track sessions.
Last year, the NASCAR Truck Series was the first to take the green at Bristol. The red flag had to displayed after just a few laps as the windshields were completely covered in mud. NASCAR allowed those teams to pit, where crews went to work on the windshield cleaning.
For the rest of the weekend, windshields weren’t an issue in any division. However, they specifically dried out the track, a less tacky track doesn’t throw as much mud.
For 2022, the mudflaps will help that. It will also allow them to use more water on the track.
An image of the new flaps have surfaced on social media. Pictured above is the Chis Buescher machine out of the Roush Fenway Keselowski stable.
Other car changes
Beyond flaps, many composite pieces are being replaced with metal pieces for the dirt race. Additionally, springs can be covered by bags, to prevent dirt from clogging in the spring.
Per a NASCAR release, “Dirt event details have been added to the vehicle inspection measurement pages as well, and as with other races, the wheelbase specification is 110 inches. However, for dirt, the allowable tolerances have been adjusted by a few tenths of an inch specifically for that surface, but the upper and lower limits remain within less than an inch of each other.”
The Next Gen car is fitted with skid blocks at other tracks. For the dirt race, those are to be removed.
The rear defuser is a big part of the Next Gen chassis. However, that piece sits low to the ground and it likely to break on a dirt track. In the test, that was removed and the cars won’t have a defuser for the dirt race.
Possibly the biggest change, other than the entire car is the time of day.
Last year, the race was run in the the middle of the day. Nothing dries a dirt track faster than sunlight. For 2022, it’s a night race and teams are expecting the track to hold moisture for much longer than last year.
Both the NASCAR Truck Series and NASCAR Cup Series will run under the lights.
Last year, Goodyear brought a bias-ply tire to the Bristol Dirt race for the NASCAR Cup Series. This year, the tires are much bigger and much wider.
However, they’ve gotten creative to bring a new compound.
Per the Goodyear release, “Goodyear designed this 18-inch tire with the lower profile sidewall to behave similar to a bias ply, but with the size-matching capability of a radial.”
“We had to develop a new package for the 18-inch dirt tire this season, so it gave us the opportunity to totally re-imagine this Cup tire set-up,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing.
“We felt the right move was for a radial tire, which provides a greater degree of size consistency. However, a radial tire incorporates a much stiffer tread surface, so we made adjustments to the tire construction to achieve a more compliant feel, similar to that of a bias ply, and able to handle the irregularities of a dirt surface.”
Stucker added, “The 18” package also includes a new tread pattern which incorporates a lot of dirt tire technology we’ve developed over the years, and tread compounds adjusted to be more resistant to heat and wear.”
The new tires are fitted with a different tread pattern than the 2021 event.
Bristol Tire Set Limits:
3 sets for practice, 1 set for qualifying and 6 sets for the race
(5 race sets plus 1 set transferred from qualifying)
Left-side — D-5164;
Right-side — D-5166
Left-side — 2,297 mm (90.43 in.);
Right-side — 2,327 mm (91.61 in.)
Minimum Recommended Inflation:
Left Front — 18 psi; Left Rear – 18 psi;
Right Front — 22 psi; Right Rear — 22 psi