Erik Jones put the Gen 7 NASCAR Cup car through its paces at Homestead-Miami Speedway this week. It marked the first time the next-generation car had been on a 1.5-mile track and the first time Jones had been in the car as well.
Since the initial test at Richmond and the second test at Phoenix information about the car has come out bit by bit. The newest piece of information fans got with this test has to do with downforce and the official introduction of a sequential five-speed gearbox.
Jones and John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation gave us some insight into what the series is working toward with the car and how it will react on track.
More Downforce, Less Sideforce?
One thing NASCAR fans have desperately clamored for is less downforce on the next-generation car. Not to be brash but we’re not getting that, at least not on 1.5-mile tracks. One thing it does sound like we will be getting is less side force on the car. We’ll let Erik explain that;
“We have a lot of sideforce in our cars now and there is a lot to lean on – when you get loose the car kind of corrects itself and straightens itself out,” Jones said. “This car doesn’t really have any of that. The quarter panels are so short and there’s no offset in the car – it’s very symmetrical – so there’s not a lot to lean on in this car.
LESS SIDE FORCE? NOT A LOT TO LEAN ON? Not to be graphic here but you should be aroused by all of that. One of the biggest issues with the Gen 6 car is the side force. It’s so great, the cars are too easy to drive. As Jones says, you get loose now and the car straightens itself out. Not great for racing. You need a driver to walk a line between being in control and wrecking. As Clint Bowyer said, you need wrecks.
While the upper quote gets you aroused, the lower quotes will shut that sucker right down.
“I think a lot of the aero changes they’ve done are going to help as far as racing goes, especially racing in a pack. Other than that, as we were working on things, some driving characteristics are similar. I think there is definitely more grip to be had as far as what the car is capable of. I think as far as development goes, there is going to be a lot more mechanical grip available than what we currently have.”
“We continue to work in the wind tunnel, we’re developing rear diffusers to generate more rear downforce,” he said. “One of the big things we have here that we didn’t have at Phoenix is we added some of the lift-off devices that we’ve developed over the winter, including roof flaps. We also have a few other related items in development that aren’t on the car right now such as flap-down doors for the diffuser to get the liftoff speed even higher than what we run today.”
NOOOOOOOO not more grip and more downforce. Those are things no one wants. Unless Jones is talking about more grip than they currently have on the Gen 7 car because they’re still figuring out the setup. What no one wants to see is more downforce, off-throttle time is key to good racing. For now, we’ll hold off on judgment.
Bye Bye 4-Speed, Hello 5-Speed Sequential Gearbox
Since the beginning of time NASCAR cars have had a 4-speed H-pattern gearbox.
The Gen 7 car will switch to a 5-speed sequential gearbox as shown in this video from inside the car with Erik Jones this week.
While the sequential gearbox certainly makes the car easier to drive and takes out the possibility of missing a gear, etc. It does allow drivers to attack a restart harder than ever before. Jones talked about how he has already thought about how this gearbox will change restarts on road courses. So while the variable of messing up a restart due to a missed shift is all but done, the idea that it will allow drivers to attack more is certainly a good one.
The next Gen 7 test will take place in March following the Cup race at Fontana. It will be the first time the car is driven on a rubbered in track.