Phoenix and Bristol offer look at short track package

When the NextGen car was debuted in 2022, the hope was racing would improve for on the 1.5-mile and 2-mile tracks. Racing on those tracks was mediocre with the Gen6 car.

The racing on those tracks was much improved but it came with a price. Short track racing suffered, something that had been the highlight of the NASCAR Cup Series for a number of years.

NASCAR conducted a test session at Phoenix Raceway shortly after the 2023 season ended. Many consider Phoenix to race like a short track and team were already in the area to take place in a test.

A number of things were tested in the Cup cars. Spoiler, splitters, diffusers, and more were all tested with different sizes and configurations. The hope was to get the racing better on the short tracks.

While specific data was not given to the public following the test, drivers that participated in the test sessions spoke positively about the various changes. Ultimately, the diffuser has been changed for short tracks and a 3″ spoiler will be used instead of a 2″ spoiler.

The results of these changes will be on full display as the Cup Series heads to Phoenix this Sunday and to Bristol next Sunday. Testing with a few cars on the track is one thing. Having 36+ cars on the track will be different as aero will play a small part at both of these tracks.

The racing at Phoenix has been lackluster with the NextGen car. Bristol has provided the best racing of the short tracks with the NextGen car. The results of the changes should be more prevalent at Phoenix than at Bristol. Both races should give NASCAR and idea whether changes are to come for Martinsville and Richmond. With the Richmond race being just 2 weeks after Bristol, any changes are unlikely unless the car performs poorly at both Phoenix and Bristol.

Short track racing has always been the core of NASCAR racing. Other than the beach at Daytona and Darlington, NASCAR was a short track series until Daytona Speedway came along in 1959. Most drivers cut their teeth on the short tracks. Fans love the short tracks. It’s important for NASCAR to fix the short track package for the NextGen car.

If the current package does not improve short track racing, NASCAR will continue to find ways to make it better. In the meantime, tracks with sagging ticket sales are hoping NASCAR has hit it right with the current package and not have to wait another year or two to get it right.

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