Tuned in to watch Nascar races this season, you’ll show amazing changes in iconic car racing.
The most notable shift is the movement of car numbers from their traditional door-to-wing location, freeing up door space for critical sponsor logos. But take a closer look and you’ll notice that these cars are now easier to identify as the Mustang, Camaro and Camry street cars they pretend to be. No more amorphous drop-shaped vehicles that bear little resemblance to the street cars they supposedly represent.
These cars were shaped the way they were for good reason: aerodynamics dictates success in high-speed races such as the Nascar. And the only way to give all brands a fair chance to win is to make the cars look essentially indistinguishable from each other.
But for the debut this season of the so-called racing car “Next Gen” Nascar is making massive changes not only in the car, but also in the very philosophy that underlies the Nascar Cup series. Until now, it was assumed that if you could design and build a car under existing rules that would be better than the cars of other teams, you would reap the benefits of your creation and win the race.
But the advent of intelligent engineers and computer-aided design tools has led to an expensive race for infinitesimal benefits, and Nascar has decided that this approach is financially unprofitable for the long-term success of the series.
Starting this season, the next generation car is an assembly of commercially available parts. These parts are the same for everyone, and their expensive design is unacceptable, so these machines must provide almost the same performance. Theoretically, this should help teams with smaller budgets be more competitive than winning.
It starts with the car chassis. Prior to this year, teams were building their own chassis (frame and suspension), or low-budget teams could purchase used chassis from teams on large budgets. Now everyone gets theirs from Michigan’s Technique Chassis, LLC.
The frames were welded together by solid steel pipes running from the front to the back. Repairing one of them after the accident meant cutting the bent pipes and brewing new ones. The new chassis is modular, with a center section that houses the driver, which has bolted mounts for the front and rear sections containing suspension and brakes. Break one of these cars, and repairs can be as simple as unscrewing a bent subsection and securing a new one.
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Knowing that accidents are imminent, teams will be able to have pre-assembled front and rear clamps, all parts already mounted. This will make repairs on the track faster and easier and shift some of the workload to civilized everyday life at headquarters. Moreover, damaged cars that have passed the qualification are now more likely to be repaired in time for the race.
Another factor that is important for car manufacturers that support Nascar is the need for these “regular” cars to be more like real production models. Thus, the series applies sophisticated aerodynamics that uses airflow under the car control the clamping force more than the air flowing through the car body. This allows manufacturers to form a metal sheet of racers to more accurately represent the cars that race enthusiasts can buy when they return home. New this year is a carbon fiber pallet that runs the entire length of the bottom of the next generation car. Air enters it from the stepped splitter under the front bumper and exits through the diffuser at the rear.
Also, you’ll probably notice a subtle difference in the position of each car that has resulted from the removal of the ancient 15-inch steel wheels that Nascar has used for decades. Instead, the next-generation car runs on BBS’s 18-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in Goodyear’s low-profile racing slicks. It gives the impression of a more modern look of the ride, rather than a distinctly retro-style old configuration with small wheels.
The advantage of Goodyear’s sole tire supplier is that the design of these 18-inch tires is close to the design of the company’s high-performance street tires, making technology transfer between them again a more real possibility. Also, it won’t hurt selling these Goodyear tires if they look like racing, which was impossible with 15-inch tires.
Switching to larger wheels would mean heavier wheels, but by switching from steel to aluminum, Nascar was able to compensate for the weight of the larger size with a lighter material. Large wheels also provide space for the larger brakes that are needed for regular road racing. The machines are now equipped with six-piston AP Lockheed front calipers, which compress 15-inch rotors, and four-piston rear calipers, which act on 14-inch rotors.
“The brakes are great and I know it’s not even a short track, but they stop very well,” Roush-Fenway Racing driver Chris Bouchard said in a press release after testing the Next Gen prototype car. “There will be no problem with getting to the pit and not having the braking ability, it will just be a matter of not turning around.”
At the heart of these wheels is a tense hotspot for fans of hardcore standard cars. Where old steel wheels have been fastened with five nuts, like the wheels on your family car, the next generation car uses one central nut on the wheel hubs. This will make pit stops faster and less prone to human error, as single wheel nuts will turn on and off much faster.
Of course, Nascar crews are not yet accustomed to these new systems, so at the start of the season we can expect some glitches when crew members tighten the nut crosswise or face other problems when they get acquainted with wheels with a central locking system.
But there is no doubt that this is the best system that has been proven in almost every second professional racing series in the world for decades. Nascar just catches up in this case.
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Similarly, Nascar is switching to modern rack-and-pinion steering instead of the old recirculation ball design that has been used since the series was founded 75 years ago. Although this rack design is valued for its accuracy and driving feel in road racing, Nascar testers struggled during the development of the next generation car to make the steering work the same as before when roaring on oval tracks. .
The next-generation car is equipped with a five-speed serial transmission supplied by Xtrac Inc., with a shift lever that moves only forward to shift down and back to shift up. If you rode a motorcycle, then you used a sequential gearbox. (It’s “sequential” because you switch gears in turn, sequentially.)
The old four-speed gearboxes had traditional H-shift levers that placed a neutral in the center of the pattern and made any gear available from any other gear at any time. Consecutive gear changes are faster because the shift lever slides a very short distance. A large switch with an H-shaped pattern took time to shift from one gear to another. For Nascar, it didn’t matter much when the cars were buzzing in endless circles for each race.
Forget about the nonsense you saw Days of Thunder or “Slingshot engaged!” with Toladegi Nights; switch to a lower gear during the draft on the superspeedway during the race, and the only result will be a big crash and a broken engine. Nascar drivers don’t.
But now Nascar wants to hold more races on road racing tracks such as the Watkins Glen in New York, and more hybrid races held on traditional oval platforms. They are called “ravals”, which means “road” and “oval”. These are tracks similar to the one used for racing on 24-hour Daytona sports cars, where cars dive down from a sloping oval and break through a serpentine through the oval’s backyard before returning to jump on your back straight.
In such races with their variable speed and hard turns the drivers shift gears many times on each lap. Making these shifts using clumsy old shift switches from the H model was a source of problems, as the connection could break, or drivers could accidentally switch to the wrong gear.
In this way, the new sequence switches will make cars less likely to break down during road races and will help drivers make mistakes that can cause rotation. “It’s a little easy to think over the matter as far as moving, trying to make sure you keep pulling back [on the shifter] for consistent things, that was really neat, ”Buscher said. “I really enjoyed using it, and as it went, I learned what it can and can’t do.”
Upon learning about the new cars, Nascar conducted many tests with them before the start of the season and then received a preview of the non-championship race, which took place on a makeshift track at the Coliseum of Los Angeles in January.
Nascar’s goal was to refine specifications that would make cars predictable and reliable, with the flexibility for teams to adapt them to the conditions and preferences of their drivers. “It’s a driver’s advantage and we need to get that big box [of adjustment options] opened up for everyone to choose what he wants, ”driver Kurt Bush explained after a day of testing the Next Gen prototype. “Some of them are troubleshooting. Some of them just feel, and some just create a box where everyone can find what he needs in the system.
This year, there will inevitably be some problems with teething, as drivers and teams face problems that did not arise during development, or they make mistakes due to unfamiliarity with how the next generation car works. But Nascar seems to be firmly on track to achieve its goals of using cars that are cheaper to race and that provide opportunities for success for small teams, and better represent the production cars they look like while providing the best road racing capabilities so Nascar can use a wider selection of tracks.
This is a difficult task, but there seems to be a good chance that Naskar has succeeded. Now we just have to tune in to see how things turn out. These cars debuted in competitions within the confined boundaries of the improved track inside the Colosseum of Los Angeles on February 6 in the all-star race Nascar Clash, which is not a championship. They will debut in the regular season on the Super Speedway at the Daytona 500 on February 20th.