Denny Hamlin Still Has Concerns About the Next-Gen Car: "We're All Going to Have to Get Comfortable"

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It might’ve taken him a while to get to Victory Lane this year, but Denny Hamlin wasn’t able to bask in it for long.  For the first time since Next-Gen testing began, multiple vehicles were tested together on a Super Speedway.  Hamlin and seven other Cup drivers climbed into the new car at Daytona International Speedway.


One of the main takeaways from the test session was the issue of heat inside the car.  Hamlin explained, “It’s difficult, because it’s the way the car is designed, […] the exhaust is all boxed-in running right underneath the seat.  It’s 450 degrees down in that box.  It’s super hot, and then you’ve got all the exhaust, all the hot radiator flowing right into the car from the hood.”


Hamlin also pointed out that some of the teams with smaller budgets may have it worse, as they may not have access to some of the latest cooling technology.  Hamlin and the other drivers who tested with him had an air conditioning unit, and a cool shirt, and yet he still had major issues with the heat.  “[Those were] the best conditions I possibly could get […] but I can’t express how hot it was.  It was really, really hot.  It’s hard to put a number on how hot it was.” 


Hamlin concluded that NASCAR will “have to really make some big changes to it to make something that will allow us to finish races without major issues.” 


However, heat aside, Hamlin was able to give a summary about the racing product.  “Ultimately, my initial impressions were it definitely didn’t have big, big runs.  Runs took a very long time to try and build.  But again we just had only 7-8 cars out there, which changed things a little bit.”  He also mentioned the extra space between the track and the car, compared to the current model, saying “It’s just a lot different because air is coming underneath the car now, which used to be a pocket of air that would get built with a run.” 


The biggest issue drivers may face with the new car, which is set to debut in 2022, is the lack of familiarity.  Hamlin expressed a desire for more time to practice/test, but with limited time allowed for each team, he wasn’t hopeful.  “I’m going to have to share it, I think I’ll only get to get in [the new car] one more time […] before the Daytona 500.” 


The lack of seat-time for drivers before the 2022 Daytona 500 won’t deter NASCAR from moving forward with the Next-Gen car, which was already delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  As Hamlin said: “We’re going to end up racing it, so we’re all going to have to get comfortable.”


In the short term, Hamlin can rest easy for the next couple of races, as he has already earned his way into the Round of 12 with his win last weekend.  The rest of the playoff field will hope to do the same when the Cup Series visits Richmond Raceway this weekend.