Larson "surprised" by NASCAR Next Gen car similarity in Phoenix test

Defending NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Larson said he was "surprised" by the new Next-Gen car's familiar handling traits at Phoenix during its final test before making a racing debut.

Larson "surprised" by NASCAR Next Gen car similarity in Phoenix test

Larson, who clinched the 2021 Cup Series title with victory in the 2021 season finale at Phoenix, led the way in average lap speed (131.728 mph) on the first day of a scheduled two-day test at the track on Tuesday.

The Next Gen car is a wholesale change from NASCAR cars of years past, but Larson found his first day testing not totally out of place ahead of its first race, the non-championship Clash event at the LA Coliseum on 6 February.

“As far as me driving the car, I was surprised it didn’t seem that much different here than the previous car,” Larson explained.

“The steering was maybe a little bit quicker, just the little things all seemed to happen a little quicker. The moments when you got loose – stuff like that.

“Other than that, it felt fairly normal which I was happy about. My balance didn’t seem to change as much – I didn’t seem to get as tight in the centre [of the corner], which is good.

“We need to work on our brakes. The brake pedal continued to travel further and further as the runs went on. That wasn’t a comforting feeling, but we’re going to try some stuff tomorrow to make it better.”

Speeds in the Phoenix test were down slightly from last year's championship race as the Next Gen car is utilising a 670-horsepower package at all tracks with the exception of superspeedways and the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Last year’s package at Phoenix consisted of 750-horsepower, with Brad Keselowski leading the final Cup Series practice at 135.384 mph.

NASCAR teams have been getting final test runs in at Phoenix before racing begins next month

NASCAR teams have been getting final test runs in at Phoenix before racing begins next month

Photo by: Jim Utter

This week’s test at Phoenix is being directed by each team’s agenda. Having settled on a racing package for the 2022 season, NASCAR has been more of a spectator.

Larson said his #5 Hendrick Motorsports team has been taking full advantage of the opportunity to try new things.

“We’re just trying to learn as much as we can, even if it’s wrong changes; changes that you know won’t be in the right direction,” he said.

“You’re making them to try to learn going forward.

“I was happy with how today went. It thought it was a smooth day and I thought we did a good job with the changes that we made and learned a lot of stuff. I look forward to getting the series started.”

With Phoenix being the last scheduled test of the Next Gen car in the offseason, Larson said his Hendrick team was “ready to race” and confident of being competitive from the off.

He added that his extensive background in all types of racing - including dirt track racing on short ovals - has led him to be much more flexible when it comes to changes.

“I feel like I adjust quickly to new cars and new situations,” he said.

“Just from my experience in all kinds of cars, I don’t know that I have any ‘habits,’ bad or otherwise. I’m trying to learn new things every week.”

shares
comments

Related video

Why Penske has faith in its 2022 NASCAR Cup rookie

Floyd Mayweather's NASCAR Cup team to enter Daytona 500

The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team

The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team

Plus
Plus
Formula 1
James Newbold

The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team

The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car

The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car

Plus
Plus
NASCAR
Charles Bradley

The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car

How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style

How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style

Plus
Plus
NASCAR
Charles Bradley

How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style

Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season

Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season

Plus
Plus
NASCAR
Autosport Staff

Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season

How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of its Next Gen arrival

How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of its Next Gen arrival

Plus
Plus
NASCAR Cup
Daytona 500
Charles Bradley

How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of its Next Gen arrival How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of its Next Gen arrival

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

Plus
Plus
NASCAR
Charles Bradley

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

Plus
Plus
NASCAR
Jim Utter

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Plus
Plus
NASCAR
Charles Bradley

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR