Homestead-Miami Speedway became the focus for the NASCAR Cup Series on Tuesday as 17 teams participated in the first of two test session days.
The aim of the test session is to learn more about the Next Gen, a specially designed generation of car with new characteristics never seen in stock car racing. It is all part of the runup to the Dixie Vodka 400 at the 1.5 mile track in October.
Both testing days, yesterday and today, offer the opportunity for drivers and teams to experience their Next Gen vehicles at the speedway.
“Anytime you get to test, it’s important because we’re very limited in testing now,” said driver Michael McDowell. “Even though we’re almost three quarters of the way through the season, there’s so many things that we want to try that we haven’t tried yet.”
From 2002 to 2019, Homestead held Ford Championship Weekend, where NASCAR hosted three series and their finales – Xfinity, Camping World and Cup.
That all changed in 2019, when it was announced the championship race would move to the Phoenix Raceway the following year.
Homestead has had a couple of races since, but none of them ended with a driver lifting a championship trophy. The track held a postponed race date in 2020 and a spring date in 2021.
Homestead-Miami Speedway is not only about the spectacle of fast cars, photo finishes and victory lane celebrations. Its managers have always had the economic side in mind. The faculty was built as a stimulant for the area after the devastating effects of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Each year it generates around $350 million for the local communities in South Florida according to an economic study. This test is a taste of the powerful effect the first full crowd at the track will have in October – for the first time in more than two years..
Track President Al Garcia is well aware of those reminders as one of the employees around for its opening in 1995. He explained the special feeling he gets whenever series like NASCAR come to town and his reflection on the upcoming race in context.
“We’re redlining with excitement,” Garcia said. “It’s such a valuable thing to have a cup race here in South Florida.”
Debuting at the 2022 Daytona 500, the Next Gen is the newest generation of car to race in NASCAR’s premier series starring features entirely new to the sport, such as a symmetrical body, a lower roof line, and larger wheels. It more closely resembles a street car than previous generations, a goal designers have had in mind since development began in 2019.
Since Next Gen began running this year, 19 different drivers have won at least one race, tying the 2001 season for the most in the modern era. That record could be broken at the round of eight race in the NASCAR Playoffs this October at Homestead.
This week’s tests mark the second time NASCAR has brought the new vehicle to the venue. In early 2020, Petty GMS, a team owned by famed driver Richard Petty, allowed driver Erik Jones to pilot the prototype car in an early 2020 test.