By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
Even though the season finished just 12 days ago, preparations begin for the 2022 season and the much anticipated Next-Gen car. NASCAR held a test at the Charlotte Motor Speedway featuring 22 drivers. Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola led the way in their respective test sessions helping the blue oval sweep the two-day test.
Wednesday’s Test Session – Day 1
Blaney led the way in Wednesday’s session with a 31.179-second (173.193-mph) lap.
Blaney’s former teammate Brad Keselowski, in his newly rebranded Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Ford Mustang, turned the second-fastest lap of the day. His time was .025-seconds off of Blaney’s fast time.
William Byron finished the session in third while Erik Jones and Ty Dillon rounded out the top-five speeds.
Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Justin Haley, Michael McDowell, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-10.
The session featured two incidents, one of which showed the true safety features of the Next-Gen car. Austin Dillon’s accident highlighted the session. In normal scenarios, it would’ve been a backup situation but the Next-Gen car could change the game going forward. Richard Childress Racing repaired the car at their shop in Welcome, North Carolina. The car was back on track Thursday.
RCR is taking the car back to the shop after Austin Dillon's testing crash and hopes it can be back later today or tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/HZXPab8vn7
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) November 17, 2021
Austin Dillon crew chief Justin Alexander says if a #NextGen crash occurred on a Saturday of a race weekend like the one Dillon had Wednesday, the team conceivably could do the work at the track to get the car ready for Sunday (if it didn’t have or didn’t want to use a backup): pic.twitter.com/pq0cOdKaDU
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) November 18, 2021
Denny Hamlin also went for a spin during the session but amazingly kept the car off both walls.
— Motorsport.com (@Motorsport) November 17, 2021
A replay of Wednesday’s test session, in its entirety, can be watched by clicking here.
Thursday’s Test Session – Day 2
Aric Almirola led the way in Thursday’s test session with a 30.731-second (175.718-mph) lap.
Almirola’s teammate Kevin Harvick finished the session in second .026-seconds off of the fastest time.
Kurt Busch, in his new ride with 23XI Racing, finished the session in third while Team Penske teammates Blaney and Joey Logano rounded out the top-five.
William Byron, Keselowski, BJ McLeod, Ty Dillon, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-10 speeds.
Wednesday’s spotlight was the first opportunity to see a pit stop with the Next-Gen car, which features the single lug as opposed to the traditional five lug wheel.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 19, 2021
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) November 18, 2021
Interesting day on tap at Charlotte for the Next Gen test. From 4-5pm we get to take over & do some pit stop R&D. Not every team is participating, but it will be a good chance to try stuff. So many unknowns right now & teams are re-thinking everything we've been doing. #nascar pic.twitter.com/blQP8d40mw
— Justin Fiedler (@Justin_Fiedler) November 18, 2021
Following today’s test, on-track action for the NASCAR Cup Series comes to a close for the month of November. The next test slated for the Next-Gen car comes on December 14-15 at Phoenix Raceway. On January 11-12, a version of “Preseason Thunder” returns as they test the Next-Gen car at the Daytona International Speedway in advance of the 2022 Daytona 500.
Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography