Last year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. regularly talked about the Next Gen car on his Dale Jr. Download podcast. On a couple of occasions, the recently-inducted NASCAR Hall of Fame member predicted, despite NASCAR’s intentions, teams would try to find an advantage in their cars by whatever means necessary.
In other words, they would cheat.
After the new car officially made its racing debut this past weekend during the Clash at the Coliseum, the two-time Daytona 500 winner said on the debut episode of his podcast in 2022 that as much as NASCAR doesn’t want teams to finagle with the car, they are going to get “creative.” And based on what he’s seen and heard, it provides them with ample opportunities to do it.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. predicted last year that teams will cheat with Next Gen car
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a racer. He knows from personal experience and the sport’s history that teams will go out of their way to find any kind of advantage over the competition.
However, this year, with the introduction of the Next Gen car, any attempt by teams to circumvent the rules is supposed to be more difficult with NASCAR providing each organization with vendor-supplied parts. The thought is that everyone will have the same pieces, and it levels the playing field.
Last year during one episode of his podcast, Earnhardt said it doesn’t matter how hard NASCAR tries to eliminate cheating from the sport; it’s going to continue to happen.
“If you’re not trying to figure out how to cheat, you’re not going anywhere. With this new car, with new parts, new pieces, absolutely you’ve got to find an advantage,” Earnhardt said. “You’ve got to be willing to take that gamble that NASCAR is probably going to come down super hard on the first guy that gets caught for messing with some of their stuff.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Next Gen car provides plenty of opportunities to cheat
Last year when Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked about teams trying to alter the Next Gen car, he leaned on his own past experience with previous cars. However, in the last few months, his perspective has changed.
He’s driven the car multiple times, including tests at Bowman Gray Stadium and Daytona. He was one of the first drivers to turn laps last weekend inside the LA Coliseum. The former driver has seen under the hood and, more importantly, has talked with drivers and teams. He knows what they’re thinking.
With that new base of knowledge, Earnhardt began the 2022 season of his podcast by reaffirming what he had said before, but this time he offered more detail.
“With all of the components, there’s all new places and areas for them to get creative in. And when I say get creative, I mean cheat,” Earnhardt bluntly admitted. “I think that it’s going to be a very, very difficult task for NASCAR to control all the creativity that these teams are going to try to develop.”
Admits NASCAR has better chance of catching cheaters with Next Gen car
While Earnhardt admitted the car provides teams with new areas to get creative, he also acknowledged the chances of getting away with it have been dramatically reduced with the vendor-supplied parts, just as NASCAR had intended.
“This is an easy ball or strike call for NASCAR,” he said. “You bought the component. This is what it’s supposed to look like. Here’s your component. You’ve made a modification. It’s no gray area.
“It’s a very dangerous game because I think the penalties out of the gate will be excessive because NASCAR wants to send a message to keep the teams from doing this stuff.”
Now it’s time to wait and see. Based on the sport’s history, some teams will try to modify the car. And, as Earnhardt suggested, NASCAR will catch them. The only unknown is how severe of a penalty the governing body will hand down to the first-time offender.