Nascar Racing

The Next Next Gen Challenge Was Phoenix

From a NASCAR Fan’s View


I thought I’d try something a little different for the last race of the West Coast swing. I thought I’d talk about it after the race had been run and I’m glad I made that decision. There isn’t really a lot of difference between talking about it before or after other than there are some more obvious things to mention, at least from my view. Having said that, there are several things that seem pretty obvious to this fan and one of them I think I have mentioned before. That would be that, in several ways, the Next Gen car favors the younger drivers. No, I’m not saying the veterans just don’t have what it takes to go fast in this car. What I’m saying – and have said – it is my opinion they have more to unlearn to make the switch to this Next Gen car.

It’s really no secret. Ask any of the drivers in the Cup series. The Next Gen car is a bear to drive and they are all trying to learn about it as fast as they can. They also say they are pressing the envelope to see just how far they can push it. They have a lot to learn and it does appear they are making headway, but it also obvious it is somewhat of a careful and slow process and they sometime push it too far and pay a price. Sometimes that price is heavy and sometimes, well, let’s just say the price and the damage may be light but hopefully they learned something in the process.

From my view, the hardest part is they don’t have a lot of time in the car at all and they definitely have to experiment and press the envelope at each of the tracks they visit. They just don’t have information in their notebooks for the tracks they face for the first time with the new Next Gen car. Although, looking at the results from this last weekend, having a previous practice session at this track before this last weekend’s race did seem to help some of the teams’ performance.

It does appear, at least for the present, the Hendrick cars are just slightly ahead of the rest and they have dominated – at least in the win column – the tracks in the West Coast Swing. All of that changed at Phoenix and the Fords – well at least some of them showed there was still hope for them as the weeks progress.

Why do I say that? Well… That’s a good question and I’m glad you asked.

With the way things started out this last weekend, it was another one of those times it looked like any of the manufacturers could win and the Fords and Toyotas both looked pretty strong. Ryan Blaney took the pole and Denny Hamlin sat beside him on the front row. Of course, then the race started and the Chevys once again moved to the front. At times all four of the Hendrick teams were in the top ten and the Chevy teams, overall, looked to be ready to potentially win and finish high in the running order.

Of course, you know what happened at the end of the race; Chase Briscoe in a Ford won the race and there were five Fords, two Chevys and two Toyotas in the top ten. Surprisingly to me, the Hendrick Chevys weren’t in the top ten even though all four of them had looked to be able to take the win earlier in the race. I do wonder what might have happened had Kyle Larson not had an engine problem.

So… Chase Briscoe won his first race in his cup series career and congrats to him and SHR. It wasn’t just given to him, he had to drive for it. Once again, Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick showed they are both on the road to possibly winning in the Cup series as they finished second and third. Even the older veterans Kurt Bush, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Bush showed up in the top ten at the end. Can’t help but wonder how their winless streaks might be affected in the near future.

I could probably go on and on talking of all the little things that stood out to me at Phoenix but I don’t want to drag this out any further. After all, the race is over, someone driving something other than a Hendrick car won a race and the stage is set for all to move on to Atlanta. What happens there is as yet unknown but we all know it will be another new track for the Next Gen car and the learning curve will continue for all the Cup teams. Whether or not the Hendrick teams will still lead the way or one of the other teams will begin to show the way remains to be seen. I’m betting Atlanta will show more of the same we’ve seen so far. The Next Gen car will still be a beast to drive and someone is going to win. I’m just not sure which of them is going to step up to the plate…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view…See ya next time.
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 14, 2022 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.