NASCAR Next Gen “designed” for COTA challenge, despite limited practice

NASCAR’s Cup Series faces a new challenge this weekend with the first road course race for its new Next Gen car at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas and only 30 minutes of practice available to drivers ahead of qualifying.

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske Ford

Ford’s Aric Almirola believes it’s helpful that the revolutionary stock car has a symmetrical design platform, which helps to turn right as well as left, but points out that simulator time is “really our only chance to practice” before hitting the track on Saturday.

“This car is absolutely designed more for a road-course race type situation,” said Almirola. “Our cars used to be offset, and they were more designed to go just left-hand only, so it was more of a big deal to swap over to go road racing.

“Now, these cars are more symmetrical. Because of that, it is more specifically designed to go left and right, which suits it very well for road racing. The car is very capable – it handles well, it brakes very well.

“It’s got much bigger brakes than what we used to have on the old car, so it stops way better and the brake zones are way more compressed. It is a little bit more thrilling to drive on the road courses.”

“I’m going to spend about four hours this week sitting in the simulator, logging laps at COTA to get as much practice as possible. That’s really our only chance to practice, so I’m going to put full focus on it this week and hope it pays off.”

Ty Dillon, GMS Racing Chevrolet

Ty Dillon, GMS Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: NASCAR Media

Toyota’s Kyle Busch is running the Truck Series race at COTA this weekend, as well as his regular Joe Gibbs Racing Cup ride, and hopes that extra track time will be a benefit alongside his simulator training this week.

The Cup field is split into two groups for Saturday's practice session, which means they will only get a handful of laps in before qualifying begins straight afterwards.

“I think it gives us an opportunity to get out there and get our feet wet in the Truck Series and get a feel for the tire and the new car and really think about what you can learn,” said Busch. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so it will be nice to have some extra track time to work on my car and get some experience and also have just a little bit more knowledge of what it’s like beyond what we do in our sim and other ways we prepare for races and the limited practice time we will have.”

Stewart-Haas Ford star Kevin Harvick added that far more preparation goes into road-racing events as opposed to NASCAR’s regular oval tracks, and he plans to have as much as possible “memorized” before he gets into the car on track for those crucial practice laps.

“There’s just a lot more time that goes into a road-race week,” he said. “You have to spend a lot of time in the simulator. You have to spend a lot of time with your previous notes and make sure you have the shift points and all the things that you remember as far as curbs you need to hit and things you don’t need to hit, where you need to be on the racetrack, tire falloff.

“You have to have everything memorized before you get there so that the first few laps are valuable because you’re still going to be learning the real-life tolerances of the grip level. And you’re going to have to blend that into also trying to do it in a short amount of time and get something out of those practices to give some feedback about the cars.

“It’s a different preparation week for the road courses than it is anything else.”

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