Veteran NASCAR analyst Larry McReynolds says next-gen car is ready for 2022
Larry McReynolds, known as the American team manager, had no idea what to expect as he attended a practice session for the Next Gen race car at Bowman Gray Stadium last month.
With former drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer behind the wheel, McReynolds knew he would have a pretty good idea of ââhow Nascar’s new car – delayed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic – would manage.
âIt looks like they’re going to end up going in the direction we went with the old package on the smaller tracks,â said McReynolds, Nascar analyst on FOX. âSince the first time I saw this car in person, they ticked a lot of boxes. Looks good, it looks like a race car and it sounds like a race car.
Nascar is putting the finishing touches on its Next Gen race car, as it has had recent testing at Daytona, the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL and the Charlotte Oval.
With only 36 charters, the Nascar domain will be different thanks to the arrival of the Next Gen. The new business model surrounding the Next Gen car created a plethora of changes, including the car numbers moved to the front of the car to allow sponsors to have more inventory on the race car. The cars themselves are almost ready, as NASCAR has three more tests scheduled during the offseason.
âThe good thing – at least from my observation watching this whole product develop for over two years now – is that the pandemic has extended the Next Gen car for a year,â said McReynolds, who won the Daytona. 500 1998 with Dale Earnhardt Sr., mentioned. âHe wasn’t ready a year ago in a lot of ways. The pandemic has done him a favor. “
Several drivers have expressed concerns about the safety of the Next Gen car, including Ryan Newman, who is notably out of work for the 2022 season. Newman, who was seriously injured in a crash during the 2020 Daytona 500, believes that the car is just not ready to race from a safety point of view.
âThe car has been crash tested; never seen the first thing about it, âNewman said ahead of the 2021 season finale at Phoenix Raceway. “If it’s good, you show people, right?” It’s like a newsletter. Do you get A’s? You are going to show people. Do you get C’s, D’s or F’s? You just hope the dog ate it or it never made it to the mailbox, right? This is where we are at.
But with a composite body and easily replaceable parts like those used by the Xfinity series, the Cup series cars will be much more efficient. So far, McReynolds has said the sport’s first season used parts and parts that haven’t changed in the 41 years he’s been involved in the industry.
âWith so much changing in our sport, going to all these new sites and trying to entertain other builders coming into our sport, I think the time is right,â said McReynolds. âIt is time for us to catch up on our time.
McReynolds was particularly impressed with Richard Childress Racing’s quick recovery after Austin Dillon destroyed his car within the first 10 minutes of the final test at Charlotte Motor Speedway in mid-November. The front end of the No. 3 Chevrolet was completely destroyed and the team returned the car to their workshop 80 kilometers from the track. In eight hours, Dillon was completing laps on the 1.5-mile expressway.
âIf that had happened with our old car, you would have been lucky to get it back on track in two weeks,â said McReynolds.
As Nascar prepares for its next chapter, McReynolds believes the sport’s leadership is the best it has ever been. Additionally, he said major changes to the schedule, including an exhibition race at the Los Angeles Coliseum, give teams a chance to test themselves.
âYou have to go back to when Bill France Jr. was guiding the ship with Les Richter and Mike Helton,â said McReynolds. âIf you had asked me 10 years ago where we were with our leadership, I was worried. It was almost as if the inmates were running the asylum.
âWith Steve Phelps, Ben Kennedy, Jim France, Mike Helton and Steve O’Donnell to name a few, we have the best leadership we have had. They almost took a step back and they are doing what Bill France Jr. has been doing for years.
As McReynolds prepares for the 2022 Nascar season with FOX Sports, he believes it will be a lot better than when the Cup Series moved to Car of Tomorrow in 2007.
âIn 2007, they didn’t listen to the competition,â he said. âThey made a car and said, ‘Here, go racing. Good luck.’ It almost bankrupted us. They learned from it. During two years of development, they used manufacturers and teams. I think they will add tests. They listen to drivers and engineers.
Besides McReynolds’ job for FOX Sports, he is the much sought after man. The veteran team leader won 23 races from 1982 to 2000 before leaving the pit. McReynolds was known for his tenacity with Robert Yates Racing and later Richard Childress Racing.
While McReynolds has been retired for over two decades, he has remained active in the sport. Not only does he continue to play the analyst role for Nascar on FOX, he’s also constantly seen in the garage, chatting with pilots and crews to understand the latest technology being used.
That’s why Ray Evernham, co-founder of Superstar Racing Experience (SRX), asked McReynolds to be one of the series’ crew chiefs in its inaugural season. While McReynolds couldn’t be crew chief on the series in 2021 due to scheduling conflicts, 2022 could still be on the table.
McReynolds said: âThese races were mostly in the middle of nowhere so there was no way I could come back. I hated it, but I was very flattered that I was asked.
The Nascar Cup Series will debut with the Next Gen car on February 6 with the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum, with McReynolds as one of Nascar’s lead voices on FOX.