To find whether the NASCAR Next Gen car is faster than the Gen 6, you need to look at the differences between the two cars. Differences that include horsepower, aerodynamics, and downforce are just part of the larger picture when deciphering whether the Next Gen car is faster than the Gen 6.
The NASCAR Next Gen car is not necessarily much faster or slower than the Gen 6 car when you look at the pole times from 2021 and 2022. Pole at the Daytona 500 in 2021 was 191.3 mph, while in 2022 it was 181.2 mph. But pole at Charlotte in 2021 was 180.3 mph, while in 2022 it was 183.7 mph.
Clearly there is more to the story than just looking at pole times alone. So, below we’ll talk about the Next Gen car’s horsepower and the two packages of power and aerodynamics the car has to get a better idea of which is faster.
The NASCAR Next Gen cars are not the same as the Gen 6 cars. The main differences lie in the horsepower each car generates, along with the aerodynamics of each one. The Next Gen cars also use rear view cameras instead of mirrors, along with 5-speed gearboxes instead of 4-speed ones.
When NASCAR debuted its Next Gen car, just about every dynamic of the car changed. The Next Gen cars more closely resembled the bodies seen on street legal Chevrolet Camaros, Ford Mustangs, and Toyota Camrys. This fixed one of the criticisms the Gen 4, Gen 5 (Car of Tomorrow), and Gen 6 cars received.
But there were more changes to the aesthetics. The Next Gen Cars featured wider wheels, which further allowed them to more closely resemble their counterparts coming off the production line. Besides the Next Gen car’s aesthetics, the technological aspects of these cars also significantly changed.
The most notable tech aspects came with improved aerodynamics and downforce designed to keep the cars planted onto the track. This helped eliminate the issues NASCAR had in the past with its cars going airborne, something neither the Generation 5 nor Generation 6 cars could fix.
The car’s full-length underwing is another aspect of the Next Gen car to help keep it fully planted on the ground. The wing ends in a diffuser which reduces excess turbulence, allowing the Next Gen car to remove air caught under the chassis.
A final aspect of the new aero is the remastered airflow. There are two vents located on the Next Gen car’s hood, allowing air traveling through the radiator to exit and flow over the car. As a result, the aerodynamic improvements added an additional 1,000 pounds of downforce that the Gen 6 did not have.
One last major difference between the Gen 6 and Next Gen cars is the transmission. Gone are the H-pattern 4-speed gearboxes. The new cars instead came with a 5-speed sequential gearbox featuring a floor-mounted gear shifter.
Shifting up and down is much easier. If the driver is looking to shift down, they only need to push the gear shift one notch. To shift up, they pull it back. Further, if they need to put the car into reverse, they lift the lever.
The NASCAR Next Gen cars have largely the same engine as the Gen 6 cars, albeit with more horsepower than their predecessors. The engines are still naturally aspirated pushrod V8 engines, and they’re all made by one of three manufacturers: Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota.
Previous generations had nowhere near as much downforce as the Next Gen cars. Instead, NASCAR used restrictor plates to limit their engines’ power at superspeedways Talladega and Daytona. These restrictor plates limited the cars to just 410 horsepower.
Instead of restrictor plates on the engines, NASCAR instead experimented and went with tapered spacers. These resemble restrictor plates, except they are about an inch thick with tapered holes that don’t restrict airflow and gasoline the same way as restrictor plates.
Because of the increased downforce, however, NASCAR also needed to find a way to speed the car up. This is where the increased horsepower came into play.
At first glance, you may not notice much of a difference between the Generation 6 cars and Next Gen engines. They both contain a displacement of 358 cubic inches. Both are V8, naturally-aspirated engines, and they feature a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout.
NASCAR realized quickly that the on-track product with the less-powerful, 550-horsepower engines was no good in the Next Gen cars, especially with the increased downforce. They eventually found that 670 horsepower was the magic number.
But there is more to the story. At superspeedways, 670 horsepower is way too much. This prompted NASCAR to come up with two different packages: one for intermediate tracks and road courses, and another for superspeedways.
For most tracks, the Next Gen cars feature 670 horsepower coupled with 4-inch spoilers. This is the standard for everything but the superspeedways. When NASCAR travels to superspeedways, the package comprises 510 horsepower and 7-inch spoilers.
This package is noticeably stronger than what we became accustomed to seeing with the Gen 6 cars. The previous generation saw just 410 horsepower because of the restrictor plates. This wasn’t detrimental to the old aerodynamics package.
But with more downforce, just as with the previous 550 horsepower engines in Generation 6, the cars’ on-track performance would suffer. This called for a significant uptick in horsepower at superspeedways.
NASCAR’s Next Gen cars are about as fast as their predecessors, the Gen 6 cars. This largely depends on the track however, and the use of tapered spacers. But by comparing the pole times from 2021 and 2022, the pace of the new cars is close to that of the past ones, reaching 195 mph in testing.
With each new generation of cars that NASCAR introduces, you may be inclined to think they will find ways to increase a car’s speed from its previous generation. The answer would be this: Ideally, they would if NASCAR finds a way to safely do so.
In a perfect world, each new generation would have more speed, more power, more safety features, more everything. But the truth is, this has almost never been the case.
NASCAR must focus on the entire package. Not just speed. This means improved safety features, among anything else. And while we talked about improved aerodynamics and downforce, the Next Gen cars also come with more safety features.
For the Next Gen car, NASCAR’s focus was not as much on speed, per se. Instead, they wanted to make the races more competitive. However, speed still had to be an important part of the game. This is racing, after all.
Even if they reduced the speed a smidge, NASCAR still needed to ensure the speed remained respectable and that they improved the sport’s competitive aspect. Below, you will find results from the Speedweeks tests, practices, and qualifying for the 2022 Daytona 500 demonstrating the new speeds.
In 2021, the final season for the Generation 6 car, Alex Bowman won the pole at Daytona with a speed of 191.261 mph. 8 other drives hit the 189 mark.While practicing for the 2022 Daytona 500, however, only Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney hit the 192 mph mark during the second practice round.
It is important to remember that Logano’s and Blaney’s speeds came during sessions that allowed drafting. Without the draft, cars averaged speeds of 184 mph. However, during qualifying, Kyle Larson won the pole at a speed of 181.159 mph, 10 mph lower than Bowman’s qualifying time. But at other tracks, like Charlotte, the Next Gen car pole speed has actually been marginally faster than the Gen 6.
Looking at the 2022 NASCAR Cup schedule’s completed races, you will notice that the average qualifying speeds were down compared to the speeds run during the Gen 6 era. The races themselves varied when compared to the Gen 6 car. Further, the 2022 Daytona 500 had an average speed of 142.295 mph, compared to 2021’s average of 144.41 mph. However, 2019 and 2020 were slower than the 2022 event.
The average speed at the 2022 Pennzoil 400 was substantially lower than the Gen 6 car’s speed, clocking in at just 117.552 mph. From 2013 to 2021, during the Gen 6 car’s life span, the average speed never dipped below 134.861.
The same results occurred at the Fields of Honor QuikTrip 500, where the average speed in 2022 sat at just 126.584 compared to 142.626 and faster average speeds between the 2017 and 2021 events.
As mentioned previously, the cars reached 192 mph during practice at the 2022 Daytona 500, but the Gen 6 cars reached 199 mph in 2021.
So, although the engines are more powerful in the Next Gen car, the cars are not always as fast as their Gen 6 counterparts. However, that doesn’t mean the racing is any less exciting. The cars are primarily slower, but not so much slower that they will bore fans.
Instead, the cars’ increased downforce is the main culprit behind the slower speeds. But the improved downforce, along with the more powerful engines, will keep races more competitive and more entertaining. And that’s what NASCAR was looking for.
The Next Gen NASCAR car is not always faster than the Gen 6. They have more powerful engines at intermediate tracks and superspeedways, but they have more downforce and a new aerodynamics package that slows the cars. NASCAR’s goal was to make the cars safer while providing top-notch entertainment.
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