NASCAR: Patience is key in planning Next Gen car’s debut

The exact date of debut for NASCAR's Next Gen car remains to be announced (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
The exact date of debut for NASCAR's Next Gen car remains to be announced (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

With the 2020 and 2021 schedules up in the air, NASCAR has delayed the rollout of the Next Gen car. The sport’s best bet is to remain patient with their plans for the car’s debut.

The highly anticipated car was scheduled to debut at Daytona International Speedway in February of 2021 and be used the entire season. However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has put question into whether the new car will be seen at all in NASCAR‘s 2021 Cup Series season.

On Monday, The Athletic reported that the sport is planning to delay the release of the Next Gen car. No new release date has been set, but the delay has not been extended to 2022 thus far.

With all Cup races through Sunday, May 3 postponed and further postponements likely pending, NASCAR’s teams are in a precarious situation. Their operations are suspended, their upcoming schedules are uncertain, and some teams’ financial stability may be badly affected.

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Because of such uncertainty for NASCAR’s teams and manufacturers, the delay of the Next Gen car’s debut is a smart move for both the sport and its participants.

Many leaders in the industry have expressed that the rollout be pushed back to 2022.

Here is what David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said concerning the Next Gen rollout, according to RACER.

"“We prefer to see (Next Gen) pushed a whole year, and it be introduced in a clean fashion. This crisis that we’re all a part of and as an industry, whether it’s from an OEM perspective, from a team perspective, sponsor perspective, all of us are going to have to go through a recovery period, just naturally speaking.”"

While the idea of a partial rollout in 2021 is still an option, Wilson’s proposal of a fresh rollout in 2022 makes the most logical sense.

Teams would be heavily strained financially if part of the 2021 schedule featured 2020’s car and rules package and part of it featured the Next Gen car. With this season’s uncertain future putting financial stress on teams and manufacturers alike, there is little reason to force the usage of two separate cars next season.

Kevin Harvick’s reasoning for supporting a 2022 release was also noted by RACER.

"“Just to take the load off of the teams that we’re currently going to have when we go back racing.”"

As Harvick mentioned, returning to racing could prove to be a challenge, especially for some of the Cup Series’ smaller, lesser known organizations. Adding more obstacles for teams to navigate in 2021 could be a breaking point if finances for such teams do not hold up well.

Furthermore, the Next Gen car’s 2021 prospects could be dependent upon the release of the 2021 schedule, which has no set date yet.

Next season’s schedule could unfortunately be affected by the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics. This year, NASCAR would have avoided conflict with the Olympic Games by scheduling a two-week summer break.

Similar scheduling strategy may be implemented for 2021, which would mean NASCAR would have to coordinate with tracks to find proper dates for race weekends. Since the exact collection of tracks where the Cup Series will be racing in 2021 is undecided, any usage of the Next Gen car will likely not be known until the schedule is announced.

Keeping teams in limbo in regards to the delay of the Next Gen rollout is ultimately not a good path. This year’s uncertainty should not be added to or replicated in 2021.

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NASCAR should delay the Next Gen to the start of the 2022 season. This would allow a clean debut to build anticipation during the offseason (as it would have done this upcoming winter) and to prevent teams and manufacturers from having to juggle the burden of preparing two different cars for the same season.