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NASCAR Next Gen car gets safety upgrades for 2023 season

NASCAR unveiled some changes to the Next Gen car for the 2023 season, with most enhancing its safety aspects.

Garrett Smithley, Rick Ware Racing, True Brands Ford Mustang; Ty Dillon, Petty GMS Motorsports, Allegiant Chevrolet Camaro; Daniel Suarez, TrackHouse Racing, Freeway Insurance Chevrolet Camaro; Kurt Busch, 23XI Racing, Monster Energy Toyota Camry; Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro; William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Axalta Chevrolet Camaro

One of the few negatives that came out of the debut of the Next Generation car in the 2022 season were complaints from drivers of more significant impacts from rear-end collisions with the car.

Two drivers – Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman – were sidelined with concussions during the season after their respective cars were involved in accidents which sent both backing into the wall.

Busch has still not been medically cleared to compete, although he has retired from full-time competition.

Doctor John Patalak, NASCAR’s vice president of safety engineering, said work on a new or altered rear-end clip and bumper structure to the car began in late May and early June, even before Busch’s accident in July at Pocono.

The process began with computer simulation work and ultimately involved real-world testing, the results of which were shared in a briefing with reporters Tuesday at NASCAR’s research and development centre in Concord, North Carolina.

Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, Ally/Best Friends Chevrolet Camaro

Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, Ally/Best Friends Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Gavin Baker / NKP / Motorsport Images

“We will always do physical tests,” Patalak said. “The computer simulation gives us a level of confidence to and build parts but ultimately it has to prove itself out with physical tests.

In the videos, the changes on the 2023 car showed a visible increase in “crushability” in rear end collisions.

The new design will get its first race conditions test in Sunday’s preseason Busch Lite Clash at the quarter-mile track inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“There are always challenges because the car has to be able to perform on the race track without bending things while it’s not crashing,” Patalak said.

“And so you have to look at wheel loads at Bristol and Dover, what happens to suspensions when you go over curbs at road courses, things like that.

“We have to work through and around and become creative in how we introduce deformations into the chassis for crashes to make sure we’re not bending things the way they’re not supposed to bend.

“One of our main concerns is that we are not introducing any new hazards, we can’t risk spilling fuel or rupturing oil and it needs to work on every race track. So, there are challenges based on what the cars have to do on road courses vs. superspeedways or short tracks.”

The process was not as easy as NASCAR had to balance safety concerns with not altering the aerodynamics of each manufacturer’s entry while also ensuring the car remain durable enough to protect the integrity of the interior.

“We went through lots and lots of iterations,” Patalak said.

In a display at the R&D Center of the 2022 and 2023 chassis, the most visible changes to the rear-clip were fewer bars on the newer model, altered bar designs and some of the existing bars now feature built in holes in the area of potential bending points.

Asked Wednesday about the safety changes, Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr said: “I think everything that NASCAR is doing is in a really good direction. We’re all holding hands and going forward together on this.”

Among other changes in the Next Gen car are alterations to the mufflers for noise reduction and heat extraction purposes have been designed for this weekend’s race at The LA Coliseum and the Chicago Street Race; cooling vents have increased in size on the car hoods to regulate heat; and each manufacturer altered the nose of its respective car model to make it a bit more flat to help with drafting on superspeedways.

NASCAR also tested some aero package changes, including different sized rear spoilers, during a two-test at Phoenix last month. It plans to further test the changes in a test at the wind tunnel on 13 February.

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