Although the test session Wednesday at Richmond (Va.) Raceway got a late start due to rain in the area, it did give Wallace his first hands-on look of the new car.
The test was primarily for Goodyear and its efforts to develop race tires for the car.
“To be honest, I didn’t talk to other drivers about the car before this test. I wanted to just come here and figure it out for myself, knowing that this wasn’t a test session so much for the car as much for the tires,” Wallace said.
“It changes your dynamic when you’re not constantly making adjustments to the car. It’s different, but it’s a race car at the end of the day. There are some things we can learn on, and we’re going to figure it out.
“The car sounds really cool; from the inside it sounds really mean.”
The new car was originally set to debut in the Cup Series this season but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its on-track arrival until next season.
In all the testing thus far, the test cars have had a manufacturer-generic overall design, but they do include several prominent features that make them stand out from the current Cup Series models. They include far more stock-looking wheels and wheel well, body side molding and character lines, hood design and air exhaust vents built into the rear bumper.
“This is really a tire test more than anything. Our first two runs were kind of a balance adjustment – we were a little bit on the free side and snugged it up a little bit. But since then we’ve been focused on tires,” Wallace said.
“One thing I’ve noticed about the car is that the balance doesn’t really change over a long run. But the tires are falling off – we’re testing different constructions and compounds to figure out tire would work best for a race here.”
Improving driver comfort
In addition to allow Goodyear to test various tire compounds, the test was also used to address some comfort issues for the drivers.
“We are at the phase of Next Gen car development that we want to give Goodyear ample opportunity to develop race tires for this package. That is job one here,” said Brandon Thomas, NASCAR’s managing director of vehicle systems.
“Beyond the tire development, we’re researching the temperature of the cockpit with some thermal imaging to make sure it’s a little more comfortable for the driver, especially during a long hot summer race.
“As an engineer, there are still some things that I could look at and say ‘I’d like to do x to make this a perfect machine,’ but that’s not our role. Our role is to create a great race car that puts on
great races. People want to watch a race where drivers have to dig in to be competitive, not a race where every car happens to drive perfectly.
“Overall, the performance of the car is where we want it to be.”