Despite being in unknown territory with postponed races amid the COVID-19 outbreak, NASCAR is still pushing forward with the Next Gen race car, said president Steve Phelps.
But, whether it’s the new car or finalizing the 2021 schedule, it is not easy for anyone who works in the industry Phelps admitted Tuesday. Racing has been postponed for eight weeks and already one Next Gen test, scheduled for this week, has been canceled.
“We’re not the only ones this is hard on, right?” said Phelps. “You have people who are contracting this illness. You have people who are, sadly, dying from this virus. We’re trying to keep it all in perspective with what it is that we do.
“We are still pushing forward right now with the Next Gen car, (though) with changes to our schedule. We’re trying to do it as (intelligently) as we can. The variables keep changing. The hurdles keep being put in front of this industry, and this industry keeps jumping over them. Then there’s another; it jumps over that, then another and another.
“It’s not an easy situation, for sure. But it’s one that this industry is managing together. (I’m) really proud of how this industry has come together to try to support each other and to try to get through this as best we can. Again, it’s a difficult situation.”
Next Gen is supposed to get on track early next month in Bristol and then in early May at Dover. However, both of those races are among the seven NASCAR Cup Series events that have been postponed.
Vendors that haven’t been finalized for the car are still being awarded by NASCAR, and manufacturers are still finalizing their individual designs. Moving to a new car with so many new components — bigger tires, single lug nuts, independent rear suspension and lots more — is a significant shift for the sport and its teams.
And when it comes to the teams, they are expected to take inventory of the car this summer. The testing schedule, as initially laid out by NASCAR in February, is to pick up beginning in the second half of the year with open and organizational tests.
Phelps was asked during his call with the media if he anticipated that there could be a postponement to the debut of Next Gen, and said it was too early to tell.
“We are working diligently to try to stay on schedule,” said Phelps. “There continue to be barriers put in front of us, and we will have to adapt to those as they come.”