Martinsville Speedway, the shortest track on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, played host to three days of testing heading into the Easter off weekend for NASCAR. Manufacturers conducted the first Next Gen car test not held by NASCAR on March 30 and 31. The following day, wet-weather tires were tested at the Virginia short track.
NASCAR already utilizes rain tires during inclement weather on road courses but has shied away from racing on wet surfaces at ovals. The gola of Thursday’s wet-weather tire test was to determine the feasibility to racing on damp surfaces at tracks a mile in length or shorter.
“I think the overall goal is anything we can do to speed up the drying process, regardless of the technology, to allow us to get back to racing more quickly is a benefit to the fans,” O’Donnell said, as quoted in a NASCAR.com article. “We’re always trying to innovate, and you saw that with what we’ve done around the track-drying system, and that’s worked out well. We’ve always looked at what’s the next iteration. If you’ve looked at what the teams have been able to do with more road racing coming into the fold, the idea of short tracks and could we work with Goodyear to find a tire that would allow us to get back to racing sooner under wet-weather conditions.”
Chris Buescher and Kyle Larson drove the two cars participating in the tire test.
Alex Bowman, one of Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet teammate, was the only current Cup Series regular who participated in the two-day Next Gen test that was abbreviated by rain on day two. David Ragan drove the Ford and Drew Herring the Toyota. Cars were equipped with Wheel-force transducers for data collection. Cars in that test were wrapped in camouflage in efforts to disguise manufacturer-specific body features.
“With all of the branding now that the OEMs have put on those cars, we’re very happy with how that first test went,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Innovation John Probst said, as quoted in a NASCAR.com article. “Obviously the cars are heavily camouflaged right now, so it’s hard to see all of the detail that’s gone into it, but I think when the fans get the opportunity to see all of the production characteristics that have gone into these race cars, they’re going to be really happy with the end result. The first on-track test was a massive success from our perspective. The focus was on collecting data and making laps, and it wasn’t on trying to sort the car out. So I feel like from that perspective, it was a home run on our first test with the OEMs.”
The Next Gen car is slated to make its competitive debut in 2022. It originally was expected to be driven in competition this season, but a delay in testing because of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed plans to transition to the new car to next season.