Fontana Is The Next Stop For The Next Gen

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

For the first time in two years, NASCAR Cup Series takes on the old Auto Club Speedway in California. Even though the track is old and a track the drivers like to race on, it has its own set of problems; problems they’ve tried to fix – or at least make better – but they haven’t quite gotten there yet. This first trip back in a while with the Next Gen car hasn’t made things any easier.

First, NASCAR only gave the Cup Teams a fifteen-minute practice time and then there was qualifying on the same day. Judging from what I’ve seen from that fiasco, it looks to me as though the teams are going to struggle a bit, at least when they put all of the cars on the track at the same time.

You might be wondering why I titled this the way I did. To tell the truth – and I think it’s been pretty obvious – I just haven’t been too impressed with the Next Gen car whether at L.A. or Daytona and now, Auto Club Speedway at Fontana. One thing that amazes this fan is how many problems they’re having – or maybe I should say, finding – with a car they’ve been working on for over two years. Is there anything wrong with introducing a completely new car into the competition? No, of course not. Is there anything wrong with giving the drivers a challenge they haven’t experienced ever? Again, no, of course not.

Taking a quick look back at the race last weekend at Daytona, it just wasn’t as good as this fan thought it should or could be. In fact, I thought – and still do think – they have basically managed to kill Super Speedway racing. (I’m sure that will gain some disagreement from all corners and everyone has a right to their own opinion.) For one thing, at least from my view, the only thing basically the same with Superspeedway racing and the Next Gen car is the remaining existence of the “The Big One.”

I know it sounds like I’m complaining but I’m really not. I prefer to call it whining. After coming off a year like 2021 and the type of racing at all the tracks they visited, I’m just completely underwhelmed. This has nothing to do with Ford, Chevy or Toyota. This has everything to do with the introduction of the Next Gen car and my opinion of it. I still believe what I mentioned before. I believe NASCAR has managed to attain the parity they always intended and they’ve done it with this new car and in the process killed the competitive racing they had with the old car. Even the drivers aren’t all that happy with it and, in my opinion, they do their best to not complain too much and tick off NASCAR.

Yeah, I know I’m treading in dangerous territory and there will be many that disagree with my assessment of the Next Gen car. I also know it may not be considered as appropriate or completely true but, it is the way I see it and I’m not really willing to give up that view point at the present time. I’m sure some will say that I just don’t like change and there is nothing further from the truth. What I like is change for the better and with the Next Gen car, that remains to be seen and maybe… just maybe… it will happen in the not-too-distant future. I guess we’ll see about that and we’ll see if and how NASCAR may re-evaluate this new car.

Now, getting back to Fontana and the Auto Club Speedway…

Judging only from what I observed in the practices and qualifying, this could be another race with carnage like we usually only see at the Super Speedways. turns three and four seem to be the place many had difficulties in. So many had problems in those corners running as single cars, I can’t help but wonder what it will be like when they go into those turns two or three wide. I think this will be the place where the worst could happen and, since this is the entry to the front straight and the finish line, it could be where the race is won or lost and not because of driver error.

If you listen closely to the drivers and crew chiefs, you’ll find they admit this car is a real challenge and difficult to drive. You will also hear them say these are the cards they’ve been dealt and they will deal with it as they always do. So far, they’re dealing with it but I’m not so sure they’re happy about the progress so far.

From this fan’s view, I know there are many things about the Next Gen car that are good. I also know it is a major transition in technology and engineering for NASCAR. I’m willing to be patient and take a wait and see attitude over the next several races. My biggest question for any and all with an opinion is this; Is the Next Gen car the best car for NASCAR Stock Car Racing and its future or is there something more conducive to the type racing Stock Car racing is all about. I don’t know about you but, I am anxious to find out…

Hey, This is Russ and that’s my view – See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© February 26, 2022 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, and

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