Last September, Toyota Racing President David Wilson was worried. NASCAR’S Next Gen car development program was, in his words, “behind.”
Far, far behind.
The new technology needed a touch of old-school NASCAR finagling, and it got it.
Toyota Racing President David Wilson: ‘We’re all in this data collection mode right now’
Without the extra hand, NASCAR Cup Series teams would likely be frantic entering the final two days of Next Gen car testing at Phoenix Raceway, beginning Jan. 25.
Instead, with significant gains in establishing the top setups for intermediate, superspeedway, and road courses, teams seem content to converge on the desert track for a preview of its two 2022 weekends, including the Championship 4 race on Oct. 25.
“We’re all in this data-collection mode right now, and the more credible data we can gather as an industry, the quicker we’re going to advance our learnings on this race car,” Wilson said, reported by Autosport. “… We’ve all harvested some really good learnings.”
Thanks to good ol’ fashioned, get-your-hands-dirty NASCAR practices, when industry officials became more involved in the process a few months ago, precise data emerged.
“We are more comfortable with this car than we ever have been,” Wilson said. “The sensitivity gauge now is shifting back to logistics and supply chain.”
The supply-chain disorder is a big enough concern on its own, with several teams struggling to construct five complete preseason machines.
Wilson on NASCAR Champion’s Week meeting: ‘I think it was one of those therapeutic things’
Last fall, following the September 2021 test sessions at Daytona International Speedway, a plethora of problems persisted. Drivers complained about adjusting to the new rack and pinion steering and independent rear suspension technology. Added to the list of criticisms were heating difficulties within the cockpit.
NASCAR organizations, at that time, balked at beginning to build new machines because they knew the early work they accomplished would be obsolete in a matter of weeks.
Enter NASCAR’s old-school approach.
“Clearly, because we were behind because we had a lot of challenging issues, we needed to change that paradigm, and we needed NASCAR to step forward with some leadership and some discipline,” Wilson said.
NASCAR officials scheduled a sitdown with team representatives, including Toyota Racing, during Champion’s Week in Nashville, Tennessee. Individuals needed a platform to “vent” their frustrations.
“I think it was one of those therapeutic things and was good for all of us,” Wilson said. “What came from that was the two weeks of (additional) testing at Charlotte (Motor Speedway). And that was the best testing, the most organized, the most disciplined testing that we have seen with this new car.”
With Next Gen car setups stabilized, supply-chain problems could persist
Since significant progress was made at the Charlotte tests in December and follow-up sessions at Daytona on Jan. 11 and 12, Wilson said drivers are beginning to feel more confident behind the wheel of Next Gen cars. It’s not the Gen-6, as some prefer, but a comfort level is developing.
“The car is different, it feels different, it sounds different, the feeling in your butt is different because it is a completely new car,” Wilson said.
That leaves organizations concerned with other problems prior to the made-for-TV Clash at the Coliseum exhibition on Feb. 6. With global supply-chain disruptions and the release of all the latest setup data, few teams will meet the preseason five-machine quota.
Wonder when NASCAR will stage its next “vent” session?
[Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Toyota Racing President David Wilson as Brian Wilson.]