NASCAR: Next-Gen Cars Passed Several Key Tests at COTA

by Caitlin Berard
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Though this year’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA marked the second annual NASCAR event in Austin, it was the very first road course flight for Cup Series drivers in their Next-Gen cars. The new cars were designed with durability and adaptability in mind, features that were heavily tested in the challenging road course. That said, if NASCAR had any doubts about their Gen-7 vehicles, they were put to rest at COTA, because the cars performed exactly as they had hoped.

In the final moments of the race, Ross Chastain battled AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman for first position. To ensure he was the one to cross the checkered line first, Chastain bumped Allmendinger into Bowman, causing the former to spin off the track.

Chastain, however, recovered immediately, charging across the checkered flag and claiming his first-ever Cup Series win. The successful maneuver proved to NASCAR officials that the Gen-7’s durability is where they want it to be.

COTA was also the first test of the Next-Gen cars’ conversion from oval to road-course spec and back, which they passed with flying colors. Rather than specialized cars for each type of track, the Next-Gen car is capable of meeting the demands of each new track with the swap of a few nuts and bolts.

Trackhouse Racing NASCAR Team Talks Next-Gen Cars

Though Chastain looked comfortable as can be behind the wheel of his Next-Gen Camaro, he shared with The Charlotte Observer that it wasn’t quite as easy as it he made it look. “They’re hard to drive,” Chastain said. “This Gen-7 car is very rigid because the suspension feels different. It acts different. It responds to bumps different than the old car. And the roadblocks — the bottom of the chassis has these blocks bolted to it to keep it up off the ground, and when you hit those, it’s very erratic the way that the car drives.”

With the introduction of the Next-Gen cars, NASCAR hoped that we would see an increase in parity. Every driver, no matter the history or size of their team, would have a chance at the checkered flag. They seem to have succeeded in that endeavor as well, as Ross Chastain’s team, Trackhouse Racing, is only in its second year.

Trackhouse Racing co-owner, Justin Marks, gave his thoughts on the Next-Gen NASCAR stock cars and his team as a whole. “This car is so different from what we’ve had that we’ve really approached it with an open mind. We’ve said, ‘OK, let’s kind of forget what we know about stock cars and stock car racing and what makes them go fast,'” Trackhouse owner Justin Marks said. “Wipe the slate clean and really focus on this car.”

“Fundamentally, Trackhouse exists to challenge the traditional way of doing things,” Marks continued.”[Daniel Suarez] was sort of the perfect guy to set us off on this path. Ross is very much in the same mold, somebody that’s just using natural talent [and] is looking for their breakthrough.”

Outsider.com