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William Byron completes two-day test in NextGen car at Auto Club

Next Gen test

William Byron completed a two-day test of the Cup Series’ NextGen car Tuesday at Auto Club Speedway, which included being involved in an incident out of Turn 2.

Byron was the fourth Cup driver and second Chevrolet driver to test the car Cup teams will use starting in 2021.

The 2-mile Auto Club Speedway is the largest track the NextGen car has been driven. Byron made more than 300 laps during the test.

Byron’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, was part of the test.

Here are the thoughts of Byron, Knaus and John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing innovation, on the test as provided by NASCAR.

William Byron on his expectations coming into the test
“I was definitely excited about the opportunity to test this car and see how it drives. Auto Club Speedway is a really great track to test, especially since we just raced here. I talked to Erik (Jones) beforehand and he mentioned a few things about how it drove – how the steering was different, things like that.”

William Byron on his first impressions of the car
“I was really curious to see what would be different on this car. Our current car has kind of been maxed out in terms of what we can do with it. It’s going to take some time to learn this car, so we have to be patient and see how things go. We’re just trying to learn as much as we can right now during this test.

“I’ve been happy with it, especially as we’ve been adjusting it more and tailoring it to this track – this is the biggest track it’s been on so far. As soon as it started to go for us, I thought the steering felt better and the car felt more stable. It’s been fun the more laps I’ve been able to run.”

William Byron on adjusting to the new car
“It was tough to get a hold of at first, just how fast everything is. The tire doesn’t have the same sidewall, so there is not the same amount of slip that you can hang the car out. You just have to get used to that timing and rhythm of when the car does step out, how quickly can you catch it when it slides the front tires, how quickly does it come back. All those things are a lot different from what we do now. It takes some adjustment to learn that.”

William Byron on what he liked most about the car
“The sequential shifting was really cool. I’ve done that before when I first started racing but haven’t had it since. I think it will be better for us on restarts to focus on moves and not have to worry so much about shifting. And on road courses, you’re going to be able to be a lot more aggressive in your downshifts. That’s going to be a lot of fun.”

William Byron on the incident coming out of Turn 2
“We were probably six or seven laps into a 25 lap tire run. I had been a little free for a couple of corners, but nothing major. That time, I just got loose and figured I’d be able to save it but wasn’t able to. It just came all the way around. I had a number of similar moments in the race Sunday and was able to drive out of it. That’s what caught me off guard the most. It’s part of testing though, learning where the line is with what the car can do.”

Chad Knaus Quotes from Next Gen Test at Auto Club Speedway

Chad Knaus gives his general impression of the car
“I like the car; I think it’s really cool. It’s definitely taking a step in the right direction in terms of modern motorsports, so I think that’s great. We have a lot to learn as an industry about what this car is capable of. I really want to acknowledge (Richard Childress Racing) and NASCAR – they did a fantastic job in getting this car built to get it out here, I thought it was spectacular.”

Chad Knaus on the differences compared with the current car
“It’s significantly different. You can liken it to the difference between working on a modern day street car and working on a street car from the 70’s or 80’s. There is just a major difference in the type of stuff you can work on. The components are smaller and more nimble, and it’s a lot more compact in the packaging of the car.

“What and when we can change things is going to be significantly different. What you would change at the track might change from what we’re doing now – you’re going to have different knobs to turn. The thing that’s exciting about it is it’s a brand-new entity, so we’re always going to be learning new things about it and finding out what matters the most. It’s still a race car, and we’re still going to be able to work on it.”

John Probst, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation, Quotes from Next Gen Test at Auto Club Speedway

John Probst on the new prototype that debuted at Auto Club Speedway
“This is a brand-new car. We didn’t take any parts off the car we had at Richmond, Phoenix and Homestead. Our goal was to take all the feedback we received from the first three tests and implement that into what we consider our pre-production prototype. This is what we intend to race in 2021. What you see here today is a result of all the testing and input we’ve received.”

John Probst on the differences in the new P3 prototype
“We took a lot of input from the engineers and mechanics that have worked on the car. There are a lot of changes on here that are more comfort for the mechanics when they make changes. The top of the front clip is a lot wider – a lot of the feedback from the engine tuners from the early chassis is that it was difficult to get the valve covers off. We did some stuff in the rear clip to accommodate getting rear bars in and out easier. The move to the new wheel and hub necessitated some new uprights to be built. Those are really the highlights of what’s different here.”

John Probst on getting the new car built for the test
“Most of our challenges were leading up to this test. We had a lot of parts coming in from different places. Because we took the maximum amount of time we could to design the car, we left little time to manufacture and deliver the parts, so we cut it close on getting everything ready. Hats off to the RCR guys – they worked non-stop to get this car ready to go. What you see here now is a result of their hard work.”

John Probst on the incident coming out of Turn 2
“This is exactly why we test. We were able to put almost 300 miles on the car the past two days and captured some valuable data. Because of the nature of a test, we have a lot more data available than during a normal race weekend, including the IDR (incident data recorder) and high-speed camera. We’ll take the car back to North Carolina and evaluate it. This gives us a good opportunity to make sure the car holds up as expected during an incident. We’ll review everything available to us and move forward.”