NASCAR Media Conference with: Steve Phelps, Steve O’Donnell, John Probst, Chase Elliott, Eric Warren, Joey Logano, Mark Rushbrook, Denny Hamlin, David Wilson
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the NASCAR Next Gen cars. And now, please welcome your host for today’s event, from NASCAR on FOX, Shannon Spake.
SHANNON SPAKE: A tough act to follow right there. You guys have been waiting a long time to see those three cars. Certainly the drivers know how to make an entrance.
So welcome to a landmark day in NASCAR history, as all of us in the industry and of course all the fans, as I just mentioned, have been waiting two years for this day. Hello to everyone in the room, to all the fans watching on NASCAR.com and listening on Sirius XM NASCAR radio. Here today in the room, socially distanced, of course, are members of NASCAR, race teams, leaders of the three manufacturers, Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, drivers, broadcasters and the media.
So the collection of those in attendance today speaks to the importance of this vehicle and this moment. Of course, the stars of the afternoon are right here, the three Next Gen cars. The cars are the result of tireless effort, hours of testing, engineering and collaboration.
It’s really interesting on a week when we are looking back and throwing back to NASCAR history, this day is all about moving forward.
The Next Gen car is the most revolutionary vehicle in the history of the sport. It embraces the sport’s stockcar roots while pushing us into the future through state-of-the-art technology. You can see the sleek design that mirrors its street car counterpart, and you can hear the growling engine that many have described as “throaty.”
There’s much to discuss about the Next Gen car, which our sport will debut in 2022 at Speedweeks, and, of course, the Daytona 500. If you’re wondering how many days, Larry Mac is in the room and he can provide that information a little bit later.
We’re going to discuss everything that took this car to get to this moment. To do so, I’d like to welcome in three individuals from NASCAR who really led the charge around the Next Gen car: NASCAR president, Steve Phelps; NASCAR chief racing development officer, Steve O’Donnell; and NASCAR SVP of racing innovation, John Probst.
Awesome to have you guys up here today. Steve Phelps, let’s start with you. Clearly this is a huge step for this sport. The simple question is, what does this car mean to NASCAR and its future?
STEVE PHELPS: First I’d like to thank our fans for tuning in. Truly this car is for you. This is a significant moment for our sport. This car is more relevant and includes more innovation than any car in NASCAR history.
The styling of the car is clear. I mean, they look unbelievable. Just so incredible to finally be here.
We really wanted to get back to a promise that we had made to the fans, which is to put the “stock” back in stockcar. That was something extremely important to us and our fans. But just as important to our fans is the racing on the racetrack. It’s hard to believe that the racing could be any stronger than it is last year and the first 11 races this year, but this car has features that will make it even better.
Simply put, this car will make our sport healthier and stronger. It’s an exciting day for our industry and our fans, and I’m proud of all the work that went into bringing us to today.
SHANNON SPAKE: Very exciting moment.
Steve O’Donnell, I mentioned the industry collaboration. That is an important word when it comes to this car. It took that to bring it to life. Can you give a little more detail on that collaboration and how the entire industry came together to build the car?
STEVE O’DONNELL: Sure. For us it was really a blank sheet of paper. We wanted to build on what the foundation of NASCAR is. That’s great racing for our race fans, better relevancy for our OEMs, a healthy, strong sport for our car owners, potential OEMs, and then you look at just the collaboration that went on throughout the entire industry. I can probably think everybody in this room had a part to play in the development of this car, the OEMs, the teams, the drivers, a number of our automotive partners.
The drivers across the Cup Series have tested this car. Their input was invaluable during the entire time we were able to develop it. We have a test going on right now in Texas. We’re still getting more input from the drivers. We went through an exhaustive RFP process for every component of the car to really match the vision of where we wanted to be.
Without the hard work of the entire industry, we can truly say this was the work and the collaboration of the entire industry, but the real focus on our partners at Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota who were tremendous throughout this and got us here today.
SHANNON SPAKE: John, you’re the lead engineer on this project. From an engineering perspective, can you give us a sense of the process to get from the idea to where we are here today?
JOHN PROBST: I’d say the key theme behind all this was the collaboration. I can’t overemphasize that enough from what Steve said. From the very beginning, we engaged the best minds for our sport, be it the OEMs, Goodyear, even Dallara has had a big input on this car. Before we even made one part, we went through countless revisions. I’m not sure I’d be able to add up all the CAD, simulation and lab testing time that went into optimizing this car for performance and safety. I’m not sure I want to. My boss is here today. Actually all my bosses are here today, so it’s probably best kept between me and my engineers.
When you look back to that first track test back at Richmond in October 2019, this car has now been on every type of track we race. It’s had drivers in it that range from rookies to our champions, not just NASCAR champions, we actually had an IMSA champion in this car to provide feedback. As Steve said, right now it’s testing out in Texas. We’re approaching 5,000 miles in testing.
If you look at not just the on track, but if you step back and look at the amount of work the OEMs did along with us in wind tunnels, we’re up over 1,100 hours developing this car. I think that all culminates in what you see here today.
I think from our OEMs’ perspective and from our perspective, we’re pretty happy and we think our fans are going to be pretty excited to see these cars on track next year at the Daytona 500.
Today is a big milestone, but the work continues.
SHANNON SPAKE: Steve Phelps, some of the new owners in this sport this year have pointed to the Next Gen car as one of the reasons they chose NASCAR. What are your thoughts when you hear that? And what do you expect in the future from an ownership standpoint?
STEVE PHELPS: I think you’ve heard it from the likes of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin with 23XI racing. We’ve heard it from Trackhouse Racing from Justin Marks and Pitbull, and from Live Fast Racing with Matt Tifft and B.J. McLeod. There’s an eagerness for ownership to come to this sport. I think this car and the importance of this car, what it represents, is at the heart of what that would be.
Certainly other things that are positive that are happening in this sport that would allow for new owners to have interest in this sport. The growth that the sport is experiencing, the direction that it’s going in, and the collaboration that we’re seeing around the industry is unlike any we’ve seen in this sport before.
I’m very bullish on what new ownership would look like. I’m bullish on the owners we have and the continued collaboration we have with these owners.
SHANNON SPAKE: Steve O’Donnell, your goal is to put the best racing on the racetrack. For the millions of NASCAR fans, how do you think the car will do that?
STEVE O’DONNELL: I think first and foremost, this will be more in the hands of the drivers, which all of our fans want. So when you look at the aspects of the car, particularly around the aerodynamics, reducing some of the downforce that’s out there, the cars will be harder to drive in the corners. The composite bodies; NASCAR is all about beating and banging on the racetrack. Less chance for that cut tire that you see under our current design.
We’re really looking forward to our drivers going out there and showcasing their abilities. They’re the best in the world at doing what we do. We believe the car that our engineering team and the entire industry has put together is going to enable us to do that.
Then you add the Goodyear tire, softer tire compounds, the look and the feel, a lot of race strategy and different options will play out at the racetrack. Steve Phelps mentioned the racing we expect to even elevate above where it is today but also contribute to the health of the sport for our team owners and the OEMs, obviously the overall costs associated, and as you look to the future, an avenue for future OEMs to come join us, as well.
So the future is really bright. I’m looking forward to seeing our drivers out there tackling this challenge in 2022.
SHANNON SPAKE: John, what are some of the significant changes, if you take the car we’re in right now and this car?
JOHN PROBST: I think Steve hit on a lot of them really well. First and foremost, a lot of the exterior things you see to the car. We have a symmetric body, a composite body. Rubbing is racing, so there will be less of a chance — I’m not saying there won’t be any chance – our drivers can find ways to hit the wall – I think you’ll see when they do that now, there will be less consequence. The body will be more resilient. There are things in there that are more relevant to our OEMs like independent suspension and rack-and-pinion. Steve mentioned the wider, softer tires, a lot more mechanical grip in the car.
Probably the other key component to this whole thing is these cars can be run on every type of track we go to. You don’t need specialized race cars to go to a superspeedway or a road course.
I know our OEMs are really excited to tell you more about these cars, so I’m not going to steal some of their thunder.
SHANNON SPAKE: Thank you so much. Congratulations. I know a lot of hard work went into this. Good luck on the road to 2022.
As you heard from Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR worked hand-in-hand with its three manufacturer partners: Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota. To provide some more detail around each version of the Next Gen car, we have leaders from each manufacturer as well as three of the winningest drivers in this sport.
The duo from Chevrolet, the director of NASCAR programs for GM, Eric Warren, and reigning NASCAR Cup series champion Chase Elliott.
Chase, you’re the champ; you go first. It’s here. Now that you’ve seen the car, what do you think?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think it turned out great. Appreciate everybody following along, watching today. First and foremost, I think it really says a lot about our sport and being a part of Chevrolet, being such a great partner of mine. I’m excited about the product that we came up with and a lot of collaboration with all of our key partners at Chevrolet within the NASCAR teams to have a product that looks as good as it does and is much like the car and the Camaro you can go buy at your Chevrolet dealership, too. Excited about that.
Selfishly as a driver, I’m excited about the challenge, I think it’s going to be tough. There’s going to be things with this car I haven’t seen as a race car driver yet. Until you get on track and work through it, it’s going to be tough. I’m looking forward to all the things that come with that, trying to reinvent yourself as a driver to see what you have to do to be good.
SHANNON SPAKE: A lot of folks here are seeing it for the first time, the fans, as well. Eric, can you take us through some of the highlights?
ERIC WARREN: Some of the excitement for Chevrolet and some of the main highlights is that the Next Gen Camaro ZL1 is even closer to the production Camaro ZL1. A lot of the features are the lower roof line, really the streamlined look of the greenhouse and the short deck lid really brings forward that coupe styling that we see in the production Camaro ZL1.
The Camaro is a it’s a rear-drive coupe, and now we’re racing a car that is a rear-wheel drive coupe, the look of the styling and the look of a Camaro.
Some of the other features the production Camaro also shares with the car: The cooling air comes through the nose, comes out of the hood vents just like it does on a production Camaro. We have rack-and-pinion steering, and then one of the more visible looks is the larger forged aluminum wheels just like we see on the production Camaro.
A lot of other features, including the exhaust and sound, I think the throaty sound that we talk about, I think is going to be exciting for the fans.
Really we had a great foundation to start with with the Camaro ZL1. With the foundation also of our great partners, the interaction between Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress, Chip Ganassi Racing, all the engineers, designers at Chevrolet, as John said, the wind tunnel time, the computation fluid dynamics work really brought the Camaro ZL1 as we see it as the Next Gen car. It really is exciting what we see going forward.
I was honored to be a part of that first test at Richmond. Don’t get much chance to see a clean sheet design going around the racetrack for the first time, since that time, all the work with all the teams and all the different owners in the industry and NASCAR has really, I think, brought a great product. All of our Chevy owners are here, and certainly, Chevrolet, we look forward to seeing them all race, the Next Gen Camaro ZL1 in 2022.
SHANNON SPAKE: So next up our friends from the Blue Oval. Representing Ford is the global director of Ford Performance, Mark Rushbrook, and 2018 NASCAR Cup series champion, Joey Logano.
Joey is one of the guys that tested first prototype of the car. Much has improved since then. What stood out to you in terms of the differences between the two?
JOEY LOGANO: Obviously so many differences already that a lot of people have already talked about here. Getting to drive the car, it was a year and a half ago. That’s how long this project has been going on. To see some of the gains that have been made, like Eric just said a minute ago, it started with the clean sheet of paper. Where do you go with it? I think today what you see here with these three cars is incredible.
The car is definitely different. I was joking earlier that NASCAR is hitting the next gear with Next Gen. Literally there’s five gears in this thing, another gear. We all have to get used to that obviously.
What Ford has made here with this Mustang, you’d be lying if you said this thing isn’t beautiful. It looks aggressive, neat, just like what you see on the street. I think any Mustang enthusiast, Ford lover, would absolutely approve of what we’re going to bring to the racetrack.
I can’t wait to drive this things. It’s going to be a blast. So many new challenges, as Chase said earlier, us not knowing what’s coming next, what is the next corner going to be like, what is it going to be like when we race each other on a speedway, a short track, a dirt track. Whatever we go to, we have a lot of unknowns of how we race each other, how we set up the cars. It’s going to be such a fun year. When you think about how much fun it’s going to be as we all try to evolve so quickly to become the first winners in this car and try to win the championship next year. It’s going to be a blast.
SHANNON SPAKE: Joey said it lightly: This baby is beautiful. What are you guys most excited about?
MARK RUSHBROOK: Well, let me start a little bit just by saying that Ford is proud to be here as part of the sport and part of this day, and thanking the NASCAR leadership for their vision to create this project, move the sport forward. The way this industry goes about it, it’s such a collaborative sport to make the sport stronger. That’s the way we approach this, with the OEMs working together, all of the teams. Great to see the result here today.
The car itself, first of all as an engineer, racer, I love everything underneath it which you can’t see today. The new architecture moving it forward, making it more modern, the independent rear suspension, the steering system, the driveline, the opportunity for power train advancements as our world changes for future power trains. That’s all built into this. We’re really excited about that.
The biggest thing is what you can see today and what the fans will see on the track. As a racing fan, I can’t wait to see 40 of these out on track. It’s the body, what we are able to do by coming up with new proportions for it. This screams “Mustang” to me, just the proportions of the car. With the low roof, the long hood, the short deck, those are Mustang proportions. That jumps out immediately.
But then the details, to bring all that together, the engineering that goes on, again, the collaboration. So Roush Fenway, Penske, Stewart-Haas, Wood Brothers, to collaborate, tell us what they need in this race car to be successful. A lot of CFD runs, a lot of wind tunnel time is what you see here. The design studio worked very closely with us to bring in the three-dimensional features of the headlights. The signature lighting is very important for us and the design hue for the street Mustang.
But I think the biggest advancement is further back in the car, actually being able to go wider in the car. That’s the strength of the Mustang. What I love about this car and the street Mustang is in the stance of the car, in the quarter panels, to have that width, to have that three-dimensional character.
When you see this car coming at you, it just looks mean with that shape down the side of the car.
When you get a chance to see around the side of the car and as the fans see it on track, the back end we’re able to put some plan view sweep in it, more character in the rear end. So from every angle it looks like a street Mustang. We can’t wait to see this thing go racing. We’re so excited.
SHANNON SPAKE: Mark and Joey, thanks so much. Good luck this weekend in Darlington.
Finally we’re going to welcome Toyota and president of TRD, David Wilson, plus three-time Daytona 500 winner and NASCAR Cup series team owner, Denny Hamlin.
Denny, you’re in a unique position as a driver and owner. In this case I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the Next Gen car will benefit the ownership group in 2022 and beyond.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, it’s an attractive time to come into the sport obviously. This was a big factor in our decisions, will be part of our decisions going forward.
A lot of it has to do we have a reset in technology and resources that are going to be going into this car. We’re not at a 20- to 30-year disadvantage by coming into the sport. We’ll all be developing it at the same time in its early existence.
SHANNON SPAKE: David, there’s a lot to love about the TRD Camry. Can you give us your thoughts on some of the highlights on this particular machine?
DAVID WILSON: Of course. First, I want to thank NASCAR and our fellow colleagues on the OEM side. This was an unprecedented collaboration. We appreciate the vision and all the work that went.
The amazing thing is we agreed on everything. Well, not everything. But we got it done, and here we are on this special day.
Our Toyota Camry has been over two years in the making. Once again, it started with a brilliant partnership and collaboration with our friends at Calty Design, Toyota’s in-house design studio. From the proportional styling, the symmetry, the attention to detail on the front grille, the rocker panels on the side. The rear tail has more styling than we’ve ever seen in a NASCAR Camry. The greenhouse has already been talked about. That just looks fantastic.
Clearly this is the best-looking Camry we’ve ever taken to the racetrack. Personally, my favorite detail is there’s a modest TRD badge on the rear tail, just like the production Camry. That says that it’s not just a Camry, it’s a TRD Camry. For me, for our over 200 TRD members, we couldn’t be prouder.
Finally, a lot of fans have been asking us, Why Camry? Why not Supra? To that, I’ll say we’re extremely proud of the fact that we race Tundra in the Truck Series, Supra in the Xfinity Series, and Camry in the Cup Series. Why not Camry?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think we’ve been doing okay with it.
DAVID WILSON: To that I will send a big shout-out to all of our Toyota team members in Georgetown, Kentucky, who proudly build all of our production Camrys. We couldn’t do this without their support. Thanks for letting us be on your team.
SHANNON SPAKE: Unfortunately Denny told me backstage it doesn’t come with custom made Air Jordans.
DENNY HAMLIN: The TRD Camry comes with four doors. Since I have two children, this is the best car for me.
SHANNON SPAKE: Thank you so much.
There you have it, the Next Gen era is here. There’s still plenty to do before these cars hit the track for the first time at the Daytona 500 in 2022. It is absolutely incredible that we are here today.
As a reminder, you don’t have to wait till Daytona to see the Next Gen car on the track. Tonight at 8:00 on FS1, the NASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series will be run with these cars right here. That’s going to be really exciting.
We thank all of our guests tonight for their time and their insight, all of the fans at home who tuned in to watch the unveil of the Next Gen race car. Of course, the rebirth of stock.
Good night, everyone.
— NASCAR —