‘We’ll find out’ how NASCAR’s Next Gen car performs at Michigan – Macomb Daily

NASCAR’s Next Gen car has gotten mixed reviews through 22 races.

How will it perform Sunday in its debut at Michigan International Speedway?

“That’s a good question,” said Daniel Suarez, who drives the No. 99 Chevy Camaro. “I think it’s going to race well, pretty much like everywhere we go, but I guess we’ll find out.”

One problem with predicting whether cars will be able to pass each other at MIS is that the asphalt 2-mile oval has few imitators.

It’s not a mile and a half track like Kansas and Charlotte. It’s not a superspeedway like Daytona and Talladega.

“It’s kind of like Bristol,” Suarez said. “It’s its own thing.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevy, finished second at MIS last year.

“I think it’ll be a lot like California,” he said, referring to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

Suarez wasn’t so sure.

“Fontana is too bumpy,” he said. “Speed-wise, (MIS) will be like Fontana. Grip-wise, it will be like, ah, I don’t know. I would say Kentucky, but we don’t even go there anymore.”

Kyle Larson, the defending Cup Series champion, won at Fontana in February.

That was the No. 5 Chevy driver’s only victory in the Next Gen car’s debut season.

The vehicle that was years in the making features a composite body, bolt-on front and rear clips, 18-inch wheels and a 5-speed sequential transmission.

Erik Jones drives the No. 43 Chevy Camaro at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He finished fourth in the race held in July. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

“I think it’s going to put on a pretty good show at MIS,” Michigan driver Erik Jones said. “I think, honestly, the bigger tracks have been some of the better races of the year.

“It’s going to be challenging. The cars have been a challenge to get comfortable with and figure out, but overall I think it’s going to put on a good show.”

The FireKeepers Casino, the 105th Cup race in MIS history, starts at 3 pm

MIS was repaved 10 years ago, and since then drivers have waited for a return to the days when they could use the entire surface for racing.

“The track’s been widening out slowly but surely, year after year,” said Byron native Jones, who drives the No. 43 Chevy. “We can move around more and more year to year.”

“Michigan is starting to age,” Byron added. “The grip is starting to widen.

“I think it’ll be a good race. It’s going to be fast. Your car is going to have to handle well.”

Ryan Blaney won at MIS last year.

After a restart with eight laps left, he held off Byron by .077 seconds, winning with NASCAR’s high downforce rules package.

This time, cars will have a low downforce package.

“I think it’s gonna be a lot different than last year,” Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang, said. “It was almost like a speedway race last year, essentially, with the high downforce stuff. I’m not really sure what to expect. I’d love to tell you all what I expect going to these tracks for the first time with this new car, but I don’t know.

“I think it’ll be a good race, that’s for sure, with this car. We’ve seen it this year. This car puts on really good shows at mile and a half and two-mile tracks and I expect nothing less.”

Blaney, who’s third in points but hasn’t won a race in 2022, said he was “nervous” about the Next Gen car producing good races based on testing in the offseason.

“We’ve made big improvements since then, so I think after you get a whole year under your belt you can really go in and dive in and figure out how to make it even better,” he said.

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