NASCAR Notebook: Next Gen Test continues with Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr.

NASCAR Notebook: Next Gen Test continues with Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr.
Photo by Grace Krenrich

CONCORD, N.C.—NASCAR shook down two Next Gen test vehicles at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on Monday.

Former champions Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. participated in the test.

Busch piloted a blue NASCAR prototype (P3) with an ECR engine under the hood. The car debuted at Auto Club Speedway earlier this year with William Byron behind the wheel. The car was rebuilt after Byron wiped out during the test. Cole Custer last drove the car at Dover in August.

“Today has been a fun, exciting, interesting day,” Busch said. “It feels like the first day of school because of how different the car is with the sequential gear box—that’s the most fun. I love shifting through the gears. Sequentially, you have to go second, third, fourth, fifth and then you’ve got to go back—fourth, third, second. It’s not your typical “H” pattern that we’ve had. So this gear box is fun to drive.

“The brakes are much bigger and the car can stop a lot quicker. Then we have a highbred horsepower range. Right now, we’re not the full 750, but we’re also not the low 550. Overall, the car’s first impression is fun. It’s exciting and different. And I encourage everybody to dig into it to find its differences and to respect the process that NASCAR is going through to implement all of these new and exciting components—new front bulkhead, new rear bulkhead—and overall the car’s feel.

“Out on the Roval, it feels like I’m qualifying every lap because of how impressive the lap times are and how much grip there is on certain parts of the race track.”

Truex drove a black model designed by IMSA’s team Action Express and powered by a Roush Yates engine. The car was last tested at the Daytona in August with Austin Cindric. Truex described the car as “souped-up version” of the current, Gen 6 model.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Truex said midway through the session. “The way it’s all set up and everything, it’s kind of dialed in, it’s more suited, I would say, for a road course. I think the bigger challenge will be Wednesday when we get on the oval. But so far, so good. It’s been fun to drive. No real issues to speak of and handling pretty good. It suits the track well.

“The biggest thing is it’s less horsepower than what we raced here…it does everything a little bit better. It’s a little bit easier to drive—in general—around the road course. It turns really, really well. We were having a few issues with steering on the big track. When the car bottoms out, all the steering kind of goes haywire. So we’re working through that, but otherwise, it all feels good. I’d say speed-wise, with less horsepower, we’re actually faster than we were with the current car.”

NASCAR is shooting for an engine with a maximum of 650hp for the Next Gen vehicles. While the car looks considerably different, fans will be blown away by the different engine sounds due to the exhaust system not having a crossover tube that connects both banks.

“It sounds cool, I think,” Truex added. “It sounds cool and bad ass when you’re driving it. It’s kind of throaty, deep-sounding. I wish we had the 750 in it, honestly, to see what it feels like. But yes, the exhaust is different. It has a tailpipe out of each side like they ran back in the day. That’s why it sounds different.”

JEB BURTON FINALLY RECEIVES FULL-TIME NASCAR OPPORTUNITY

Kaulig Racing announced Monday that Jeb Burton will drive the No. 10 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet full-time in 2021.

The 28-year-old second-generation racer has never been able to build the consistency a full season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Next year, Burton will have his moment with one of the top organizations in the NXS garage.

“Jeb is a hard worker on and off the track,” said Chris Rice, president of Kaulig Racing. “He’s a great fit for Kaulig Racing and our partners. I’ve known the Burton family and worked with them back in the 1980’s, so it feels like everything has come full circle. We are going to go out and compete for wins and championships. Jeb is a guy we can build a long term, successful program around.”

Burton most recently competed with JR Motorsports. He closed out the season at Martinsville with a fourth-place finish—his sixth-career top five and 15th top 10 in 43 starts on the tour.

“It’s an honor to have this opportunity driving full-time for Kaulig Racing and Nutrien Ag Solutions,” Burton said. “I’ve worked so hard, not only behind the wheel, to get an opportunity like this, and it couldn’t be more perfect – representing a brand with the same values and beliefs as my family. This partnership represents everything we are, and I can’t thank Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice and Nutrien Ag Solutions enough.”

NEMECHEK PARTS WAYS WITH FRONT ROW MOTORSPORTS

John Hunter Nemechek will not return to Front Row Motorsports in 2021.

The team announced on Monday the 23-year-old driver, who finished 27th in the Cup standings, has elected to take a new path.

“We want to thank John Hunter for being a part of Front Row Motorsports and beginning his NASCAR Cup Series career with us,” said team owner Bob Jenkins. “He certainly helped elevate our performance this past season and brought added value to our No. 38 team. 

“We wish him the best in the next phase in his career and he will always be a friend of ours.” 

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