Next-gen car will level NASCAR field by 2022, maybe even longer

The most well-designed, most tightly controlled car in NASCAR history ties the field in 2022.

The so-called next-generation car has won 19 different titles in 36 races, including five rookies and two first-time winners at the season finale. It provides more exciting racing at most tracks and may help improve attendance and TV ratings.

Although an unpredictable season ended with a familiar face hoisting the trophy in Phoenix — Joey Logano won his second title with Team Penske — But it also shows that anyone can win in racing’s top series.

The biggest teams — the ones with the deepest pockets — no longer have the clear advantage that they did in decades past. The best drivers don’t have a huge advantage either. Winning depends on timing and luck, as well as adjustment and experience. Whether this will carry over into 2023 remains to be seen. But the redesigned car could help bring more national relevance and better long-term stability to one of racing’s most popular series.

“Before this year [and] The next generation of cars, you have to have a relationship with one of the five teams if you want to take part in the sport. You have to do it,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said in November. “This car changes that. “

Phelps pointed to the car’s styling and its relevance to models coming off the assembly lines of Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota. He noted the dynamism of the car and said there were more passes in the Cup series than in any previous season. Although the driver complained about the crash, he insisted that safety is the car’s top priority.

“This year the car has a steep learning curve,” said Paul Wolfe, Logano’s crew chief. “It’s nothing like what we’ve obviously used in the past. … A lot of the things we’ve done in the past really don’t apply to this car.

Logano and Wolf figured it out quicker than most, winning series tie five times if you count the season-opening game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“Boy, this year has been an adventure, to say the least,” Logano said. “It’s crazy to think about it all. It’s been a tough year and a lot of times you just feel lost. The only thing that helped me was realizing that everyone else was lost with me. When you know other people are lost too, It’s a way of staying confident.”

biggest surprise

Ross Chastain came in second behind Logano, a breakout season for Florida’s eighth-generation watermelon grower. Chastain scored a series-leading 15 top-five finishes at upstart Trackhouse Racing, second only to his fourth at Martinsville, where he used video game action to pass five cars in seconds , and won the final position championship.

biggest disappointment

Martin Truex Jr. is winless for the first time since 2014 and is 17th overall. The 2017 series champion missed the playoffs for the third time in eight seasons and announced in June that he was considering quitting before joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023.

Rookie of the Year

Austin Cindric wins the first Daytona 500 of the season and finishes 12th for Team Penske. He won Rookie of the Year honors and, considering he has Logano as a teammate, he could have even more success in his second full season.

retirement age?

Aric Almirola was due to retire from full-time racing at the end of 2022, but has changed his mind and will stay with Stewart-Haas Racing for another year. Will someone join him in making 2023 a farewell tour? Kevin Harvick wants to know if next season will be his last before the Daytona 500 in February. How about Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Truex? The trio’s Hall of Fame careers are certainly drawing to a close.

worth a look

Kyle Busch’s big switch to Richard Childress Racing and Tyler Reddick’s much-anticipated switch to 23XI racing will get a lot of attention in 2023 , but AJ Allmendinger’s full-time return to the Cup series with Kaulig Racing is another topic to watch. Allmendinger has finished in the top 10 in six of his last eight cup games with Kaulig in 2022.