Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Reveal What a Difference Five Months Make for NASCAR’s Next Gen Car

Joey Logano was not happy. The NASCAR Cup Series driver was more than that. He was furious.

While the emotional state of the intense-driving Logano is not particularly newsworthy, it does fit the current news cycle by comparing his former state of mind to the timely views of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dateline: September 2021, Daytona Beach, Florida. During Next Gen car tests at Daytona International Speedway, drivers criticized the new technology for its poor handling, slower speeds, and near-unbearable cockpit heat.

Fast-forward to Jan. 11 and 12.

Five months later, the story angle changed.

Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. share different Next Gen views nearly half-year apart 

During the Next Gen car tests last September, the ever-emotional Logano departed Daytona a bit disillusioned, Autoweek reported

“I was pretty concerned after the test here last year,” Logano said. “The cars were so new, and they weren’t driving good. They were all over the place.” 

Following the most recent test at Charlotte, on the heels of a wreck-filled session at Charlotte Motor Speedway last month, Earnhardt reported his pleasure driving NASCAR’s new wave of racing machines. 

Earnhardt’s harsh feelings on NASCAR’s previous model alterations – he called the 2008’s Car of Tomorrow “trash” – should give fans a sense of relief that the teams are beginning to feel comfortable with the new technology. 

 “The car does everything better than any NASCAR Cup car that we’ve ever had,” Earnhardt said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

NASCAR rookies Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton pace recent Daytona field 

NASCAR Cup Series drivers Harrison Burton (21), Ricky Stenhouse Jr., (47) and Austin Cindric (2) run a drafting test together during Next Gen car session on Jan. 12, 2022, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida | David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Siphoning through all varying news reports on the development of the Next Gen cars over the past two-plus years, attitudes still come down to speed. 

All the drivers want to know is how hard they will be able to push the new set-ups. 

In a Gen-6 model, Alex Bowman captured the 2021 Daytona 500 pole by posting the top qualifying speed of 191.261 mph. The top eight drivers qualified with speeds over 189 mph. 

Over two days at Daytona last week, rookie Austin Cindric went to school and paced the field at 190.621 during a drafting session on Jan. 11. 

On the second day of testing, both Cindric and rookie Harrison Burton topped 195 mph. Burton also turned in the quickest single-car spin at 184.264 mph. 

NASCAR official: ‘What we saw today was pretty good racing’ 

One reason for the Next Gen car’s clunky feel last September could be the teams’ early mission to collect data on the effects of racing with a 510-horsepower engine with a seven-inch rear spoiler.

William Byron, who claimed his first Cup-series win during the 2020 Coke Zero race at Daytona, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal he felt the early alterations to the set-up created a slower-feeling machine.

“I don’t know exactly, it feels a little bit slower, but you have a little bit more time to think on the speedways,” Byron said.

What a difference five months make.

“When you look at the last time we were here, we had drivers being pretty blunt with feedback about things we needed to fix,” said John Probst, NASCAR’s Senior vice president of racing innovation. “The pedals were hot, and there were cooling issues, and they had some trouble getting used to the steering.

“What we saw today was pretty good racing like we’ve become accustomed to here. …”

That’s news worthy to print.

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