NASCAR postpones NextGen car to 2022, more difficult decisions await

NASCAR has pushed the NextGen car to 2022, the first of the major changes resulting from the at-least two-month suspension of the 2021 season because of the coronavirus.

The decision wasn’t blessed by all teams, and that’s going to be indicative of the decisions NASCAR makes as it tries to navigate the sport’s crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NextGen change came down to a timeline to get the car ready to race for the 2021 Daytona 500. Manufacturers had a deadline of early May for their final body submissions and that is not something they could work on remotely under stay-at-home orders. Couple that with various vendors either shutting down or re-tooling their machinery to manufacturer healthcare supplies, and there were questions whether they could get the cars ready, as teams were supposed to get all the materials for a car in early July and then another set every six or seven weeks.

Beyond that, a rigorous testing schedule was planned, and with NASCAR looking at cramming as many races as possible once the season resumes, there likely would have been little time for testing.

“The decision was made in collaboration with the [manufacturers] and team owners,” NASCAR Senior Vice President John Probst said. “We will continue to develop the NextGen car and a revised testing timeline will be shared when more information is available.”

But that doesn’t mean all teams were for the change. Organizations already had scheduled out their car builds to try to end the 2020 season with as few cars as possible. Since the NextGen car was going to primarily be a kit car teams built from parts and pieces they bought from vendors, teams will now need to restock parts and pieces to field the current car through 2021.

The NextGen car is expected to result in the bigger organizations shedding dozens, if not hundreds, of jobs because they would have needed substantially fewer fabricators, chassis builders, etc. – and now teams potentially could face a bigger payroll for 2021 as additional cars will have to be built. But the initial financial outlay for the NextGen car also could have been hard for some teams to meet, after a 2021 year where they potentially could earn less money in sponsorship because of the current crisis.

Front Row Motorsports reported to the state of North Carolina that its sponsorship revenues have been deferred until racing resumes and it is in “a very vulnerable state” as it has furloughed 73 employees for an estimated one or two months.

The organization fields two Cup cars and one truck, with the truck prepared by DGR-Crosley Racing. So how many people does it take to do that? The organization in the letter to the state (a requirement by law that also allows employees to be eligible for state resources) listed it furloughed 29 mechanics, 24 fabricators, six engineers, five in marketing, four in transportation, four in general support and one in administrative.

The economics for teams for 2021 likely will be impacted by how many races NASCAR can run in 2020 because teams don’t get purse money until the race is held. NASCAR floated several schedules to teams last week in a grid that had various starting points. NASCAR will take feedback from teams to determine if the proposed schedules will work or if adjustments needed to be made.

The earliest version (returning to race Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway) included at least four Wednesday night races and doubleheaders at Michigan and Dover. Also, there is the potential of the Las Vegas and Texas races swapping in the playoffs because Vegas is the site for the Electric Daisy Carnival, which is eying a date in early October and needs a few weeks to set up.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps was on a call that President Donald Trump held with sport league commissioners Saturday, and Trump said they talked about when sports could return.

“I want fans back in the arenas whenever we’re ready,” Trump said in his briefing with reporters Saturday afternoon. “As soon as we can … I can’t tell you a date but I think it will be sooner rather than later.

Trump was asked about reports stating he hoped sports could have fans in August. Local communities and states, though, typically are the ones who enact bans on large gatherings.

“I’m not committing to [August] – we’re going to see where we are,” Trump said. “That would be great if we could.”

Phelps has said NASCAR is considering racing without fans if it can do it in a safe manner.

Stat of Note

William Byron has started on the front row for each of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series races.

Social Spotlight

– Daniel Suarez after his run-in with Kyle Larson in the iRacing event at virtual Bristol

What They Said

“It’s for fun, so I get that part of it. But … for me mentally, I try to treat it as a race when the race is going on.” – William Byron on iRacing