NASCAR's new car proved challenging at IMS road course in Verizon 200
INDIANAPOLIS -- Sunday's Verizon 200 at the Brickyard featured NASCAR's new NextGen car on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course during race conditions for the first time. While there were only five total cautions (three for incidents, two for stage breaks) there was plenty of chaos and carnage on the track.
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The tone of the race was set from the drop of the green flag. Winamac, Indiana native Justin Haley spun in the first turn of the first lap. Within the next few laps, Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin had off-course excursions that resulted in both drivers losing substantial track position.
Hamlin and Chastain, who have had a number of run-ins on-track throughout the season, never had contact with one another. However, Chastain made heavy contact with road racer Joey Hand in the first stage after locking up his brakes in Turn 1.
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While the aggression mostly subsided until late in the race, cars continued to spin and have brake issues throughout.
The new-for-2022 NASCAR NextGen (or Gen7) race car has been described as difficult to drive, leading to an increase in self-spins and other natural cautions. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is the flattest road course NASCAR runs; even the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval features elevation changes in its infield section.
"The edge is much sharper," race-winner Tyler Reddick said of the new car. "If you go over the edge it's like going over a cliff."
He felt that, with the old car, the margin for error was much greater whereas with the new car, every corner has to be perfect in order to set a decent lap time.
"If you focus enough, you can get to the edge and not crash," said Reddick. "It certainly is happening much quicker than the old car. Whether its the physical body on the car, having less quarter panel, how the diffuser works and the sidewall of the tires play a role in that."
Reddick also stated that his car handled different in "dirty air" when he was behind another car compared to how his car handled in the lead. He noted that his car was on the loose side most of the day, but was tighter when dealing with traffic.
"These cars are really edgy and it's very easy, once you get past that limit, you end up spinning out," concluded Reddick in the post-race press conference.
Whether or not the drivers will continue to push the cars past the limit of spinning out is yet to be seen, but with the on-track aggression demonstrated throughout Sunday's race, perhaps it will just become more chaotic once drivers figure out this new car.