Travis Geisler doesn’t hear the clock ticking, but the NASCAR competition director at Team Penske is ready for hands to be laid on the Next Gen race car.
“You talk so much about it,” Geisler said this week. “We’ve heard so much about it. It’s time to just kind of rip the band-aid off and dig into it.”
Except the organization doesn’t have parts and pieces to do so. With a week left in June, Geisler (pictured at left, above, with Joey Logano) said Team Penske does not have anything in hand regarding Next Gen or any chassis. NASCAR’s new car is set to debut in the Daytona 500 on February 20, and for right now, teams have only heard about the car they’ll be competing with and what has come out of the testing officials have done.
“I think there are a lot of chassis that are completed; they’re going through their certification process, going through kind of getting all that part of it taken care of,” Geisler said of NASCAR. “I think there are some small things NASCAR is waiting on to release all of those to us, so I think they’re there. The capability of building them quickly is there, so I’m not super concerned yet because I think the inventory is there. The parts and pieces, the steel, some of those things — I’m sure somewhere down the line here we’re going to fight some sort of supply chain hiccup just because the whole world seems to be fighting a chain supply hiccup, whether it’s lumber, toilet paper, chips for cars, it’s something.
“So far, our vendors have been delivering parts on time as they’ve been scheduled to. Certainly, it would be nice to have a car here or have them here a couple months ago, but racing is what it is. It’s a just-in-time business, and I feel like the beginning of July, that stuff will start rolling out to us — probably quicker than what we’ll be able to digest at the beginning, but hopefully everything keeps rolling along and we get some of that stuff in hand, and we can start working through it. But it’s certainly in the back of your mind every day of when we’re actually going to be able to kind of get going.”
Geisler has seen the same pictures of Next Gen you have, but not a lot else yet. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
Team Penske has a group focused on the new car. With nothing to work on, there are many theoreticals and things the group is pushing to try and get a direction on.
Two Penske drivers have had the chance to drive the car. Joey Logano was the second-ever driver to test Next Gen, doing so in late 2019 at Phoenix Raceway. Ryan Blaney got the chance last month at Texas Motor Speedway.Teams are expected to being organization testing in October. The first one is scheduled for the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
There is another area of the testing aspect around Next Gen: crash- or safety-testing the car. Officials have not released many details on how safety testing has gone beyond saying they’ve seen nothing out of the ordinary. John Probst, NASCAR senior vice president for racing innovation, said last month everyone is “pretty happy” with where they are at in that regard.
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NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said last month during the manufacturer unveil that “an incredible amount” of safety analysis has been done. But there is still more to be done, including doing so with the car being crashed in real life (i.e., on an actual track).
“There’s been some communication on the partial testing that’s been done,” Geisler said. “I think they’ve done all the kind of, I guess I’ll call it smaller scale testing. I think the full scale, full car testing, the results of that I haven’t heard a whole lot about it. I think it’s upcoming very shortly here, so I think that’s part of the process and timing of why everything is maybe a little bit delayed on that, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve heard a ton of information there.
“The best we can do is trust the guys that are involved over there. The guys and girls they have working on that project are the ones that are responsible for the safety in the vehicle that we have right now, so I would assume that all of the learnings over the years of crashes that we’ve all had have been poured into that thing and have made improvements in it. I’ve always felt like working on the NASCAR side of racing has put me in a spot where the guys and girls that I go to the racetrack with every week, I feel like are as safe as anybody racing anything in the world right now, and I would expect that to continue.”