NASCAR’s new car proved tough on the IMS road course at Verizon 200

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INDIANAPOLIS — Sunday’s Verizon 200 at The Brickyard showcased NASCAR’s new NextGen car for the first time on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in race conditions. Although there were only five warnings in total (three for incidents, two for stage interruptions), there was plenty of mayhem and carnage on the track.

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The tone of the race was set as soon as the green flag was released. Justin Haley, a native of Winamac, Indiana, spun into the first corner of the opening lap. In the following laps, Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin had off-course excursions that caused both drivers to lose substantial track position.

Hamlin and Chastain, who had several skirmishes on the track throughout the season, never had contact with each other. However, Chastain had heavy contact with road racer Joey Hand on stage one after he locked his brakes in Turn 1.

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While the aggressiveness generally subsided until the end of the race, the cars continued to spin and have brake issues throughout.

The new NASCAR NextGen (or Gen7) race car for 2022 has been described as difficult to drive, resulting in increased self-laps and other natural precautions. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is NASCAR’s flattest road course; even the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval features elevation changes in its indoor section.

“The edge is much sharper,” race winner Tyler Reddick said of the new car. “If you go over the edge, it’s like going over a cliff.”

He felt that with the old car there was much more room for error whereas with the new car every corner has to be perfect to set a decent lap time.

“If you focus hard enough, you can get to the edge and not crash,” Reddick said. “It certainly happens a lot faster than on the old car. Whether it’s the physical body of the car, having less of the quarter panel, the way the diffuser works and the sidewall of the tires play a role there- inside.”

Reddick also said his car behaved differently in “dirty air” when behind another car compared to how his car handled in the lead. He noted that his car was loose most of the day, but tighter when it came to traffic.

“These cars are really pissed off and it’s very easy, once you go over that limit you end up spinning,” Reddick concluded at the post-race press conference.

Whether or not the drivers will continue to push the cars past the limit of the spin remains to be seen, but with the aggressive on-track exhibited throughout Sunday’s race, it may become more chaotic once the drivers will have discovered this new car.

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