NASCAR on-track for 2021 Gen-7 debut, engine timeline less clear
The next-generation chassis, body and engine formula remains the greatest collaborative project in NASCAR history.
NASCAR president Steve Phelps expressed confidence on Friday afternoon that the Gen-7 Cup Series chassis and body was still on track for a 2021 rollout, but also said there was room for flexibility when it came to the debut of the corresponding next-generation engine as well.
The original plan was for the shell and chassis to debut in 2021 and the engine formula to join one year later.
But as the manufacturers and teams lobby for certain inclusions, there has been some push back against NASCAR to push either push the engine back to 2023 or debut both as a full-package in 2022. Despite the back-and-forth between all parties involved, Phelps believes the new body and chassis is on track for a 2021 debut.
“The majority of the garage is on board with the 2021 start,” Phelps said. “Are there some that ’22 might work better for? There might be. We have to figure out how we get full alignment on what that’s going to be, and that’s what we’re working on.
“When the engines follows is a question. There are those in the industry who have asked why don’t we just introduce one car? Are we on track for a body and chassis in 2021 for what we call Gen-7, the answer is ‘yes.’
“We have a lot of stakeholders in the garage who need to feel as good as we are about where that car is and when it should be introduced.”
The body is expected to feature even more showroom styling similarities than the current Gen-6 car does. NASCAR also anticipates designing the car as an evolution of the current high downforce and low horsepower regulations that premiered in 2019.
That engine will feature a maximum output of 550 horsepower. The current engine formula maxes out at 990 horsepower but has been incrementally restricted over the past five years through the use of a tapered spacer.
Currently, short tracks and road courses feature 750 horsepower and all tracks larger than 1.3 miles feature 550 horsepower. Phelps explained that the hold-up on engine development is a matter of just how much electrification will be part of the formula.
The belief in the garage is that the next-generation engine will be built in a way that allows it to become even more electric over time — an EVO of sorts.
NASCAR landed on a target of 550 horsepower because it believes that is the range that is more susceptible to attracting additional manufacturers beyond Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.
“We do have some time and I think with the exiting OEMs and the opportunity to bring in new OEMs with the new engine, they are all aligned with finding some electrification to that engine,” he said. “What the rest of it looks like, we have some time to develop.”
The sanctioning body also must determine how ‘spec’ they want the chassis to become. Series officials met with Dallara, the producers of IndyCar’s spec chassis in May during the weekend of the Indianapolis 500, to get a better feel of how that program operates.
Phelps said on Friday that he doesn’t like the word spec but is identifying which components are common across all teams in the efforts to regulate and prevent unnecessary spending.
“We’re trying to determine what the common parts are,” Phelps said. “I’m not going to call them spec parts. What are common parts and what are not? Those are things we are working with the teams and the OEMs on as well. It’s a work in progress for sure, but I do feel like we’re on time.”
Phelps said repeatedly that the importance of this car can not be overstated. With teams like Furniture Row Racing having already shut down and the rumors of other top teams looking to merge or sell, NASCAR must produce a car that is more economically viable for the current times.
The league’s president strongly believes this car will do just that.
“(This car) will allow teams to be profitable,” Phelps said. “That’s what it comes down to. I think it’s as simple as that.
“The great news is that the fan will be the beneficiary as well, because I think the car will have better body styling that the fans I think will really enjoy. If we’re going to do this thing the right way – which we are – the racing, which is already fantastic, should get even better.
“So I think the entire industry wins.”
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