NASCAR‘s Thursday test of wet-weather tires in damp short-track conditions may have drawn the most intrigue heading into an off weekend for the national-series schedule, but another test that preceded it at Martinsville Speedway also represented a crucial step forward.

Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota — the sport‘s three original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) — each brought prototypes of their Next Gen models for the 2022 Cup Series to the track for the first time this week. Cars were fitted with wheel-force transducers for data collection at the closed test, which ran Tuesday and part of Wednesday until rain halted the second session at the .526-mile track.

“That was the first test that was not NASCAR-led. That was led by the OEMs so it‘s sort of the transition, if you will, of the car, continuing out of the development phase and now into the implementation phase with the teams,” NASCAR‘s Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation John Probst said. “The OEMs are the last step in the process, and as far as them prepping the cars, the feedback was pretty positive. Obviously, there‘s little things that we‘re working on and we‘ll continue to work on, but none of the cars missed any track time due to mechanical problems or anything. Some of the best feedback that we get is, ‘it‘s a race car.‘ ”

All three Next Gen cars had the automaker-specific bodies that they‘ll use in the model‘s 2022 competition debut, but with busy, patterned wrap designs intended to obscure details of their appearance before their official public debut. Even with the car bodies somewhat cloaked by their paint schemes, Probst said he liked what he was able to see.

What remains is more testing for Goodyear tire configurations, wheel-force data collection and organizational test sessions. A full unveiling of all three manufacturer-specific cars is set for late spring.

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