The first year of NASCAR’s Cup Series driving the Next Gen car is in the books.  Depending upon who you ask, the remarks and opinions about the car are very mixed.  When it debuted, drivers and team owners alike praised the car for returning the handling and driving to the drivers and for saving the owners money and giving the smaller teams a fair chance to compete.

The result was a record tying 19 different winners in 2022 that included veteran drivers, “young guns”, established teams, and newcomers to the sport.

After a number of issues during the season NASCAR has stepped in to make changes to the car’s chassis – at NASCAR’s expense – to make the cars safer for the drivers.  The adjustments should be ready for the new season in February.

With the 2023 season on the horizon, NASCAR COO Steve O’Donnell spoke on the season that was and of things to come…

In regards to the cars, O’Donell noted, “we’re the only sport that doesn’t stop the action for instant replay and 5-7 minute video reviews. We’ve gotta make quick calls.  We don’t always get them right. We sometimes take heat from that and we should.”

He continued, “we want these cars to be harder to drive. We knew there would be more contact and more cautions. And we also have the result of the most green-flag passes we’ve ever seen.  You can make passes without driving somebody into the wall. We appreciate when drivers do that. It’s a fine line of where was someone moves, where were they not?”

However, “we want to make sure it doesn’t go too Wild-Wild-West. I think we’re right on the verge of that.  That’s our job to come in, police that and make the best call we can make with the data we have in front of us.”

Last season the cars worked well on the intermediate tracks but were lacking in performance on short and road course tracks.  O’Donnell said, “yes, we recognize there’s work to do around road courses and short tracks. I think we’re all in the same page there.  But, for the most part, the product we’ve put on the track for intermediate racing has been the best I’ve ever seen.”

Ye continued, “that’s a credit to the drivers who were asking for a race car that was harder to drive. You’ve seen it on the track with record-setting amounts of green flag passes.  Probably the biggest thing is the number of cars that remain on the lead lap. One of the things we wanted to do what make it more competitive but also allow more teams to compete.”

the question of bringing in a new car manufacturer is still up in the air but O’Donnell said, “the biggest thing for us is making sure it’s entertaining for the race fans. What we race has to produce the racing that the fans expect.  That balance between where a manufacturer may want to go and what we want to deliver for the fans, we need to strike that balance.”

During the pandemic in 2020, NASCAR turned to iRacing to bring the fans some racing events until the drivers could once again get back on the track.  One of those races was a street race in Chicago.

In 2023, the Chicago Street Race jumps from the computer simulators to reality and on the Fourth of July weekend, NASCAR will make it’s first foray into street racing in Chicago.  Street racing has been a part of IndyCar and IMSA for many years, but 2023 will mark the first time that NASCAR has raced on anything but a track since the early days of racing on the beach of Daytona.

The inaugural NASCAR street race is still seven months away but NASCAR President Steve Phelps has revealed that other cities are interested in hosting a street race.  “I don’t know what our ‘24 schedule is going to look like, but it’s going to have more changes in it, for sure,” he said.

Noting that the interest to hold a street race is “significant”, Phelps said, “we’re going to certainly wait to see how this first street course goes before we would make any commitments anywhere else.”

Phelps added, “it’s going to continue to evolve in terms of what the schedule looks like, but in general, I think what you’ve seen as a result of schedule variation, what we do from diversity, equity, inclusion standpoint, or any number of the other changes that are happening within the sport, they’re bringing a relevance gain in the overall kind of population of this country and around the world.”