Coronavirus and racing: An update with some positive news, for once

I get it that motorsports is trying hard to cope with suddenly being absent, and is working to stay in the public consciousness despite some very real competition from the real world of news. Mainly, it’s been doing it through iRacing, which doesn’t quite cut it for some people. Among that group is likely Bubba Wallace, who lost a sponsor – for real – after he was “crashed” out of the virtual NASCAR race at Bristol last weekend by Clint Bowyer, got up and walked out of wherever he was operating his racing simulator from. NASCAR chimed in on a non-virtual basis by declaring that its Next Gen race car, depicted below in the photo from NASCAR Images, will not make its debut next year as planned, and instead is being held back for 2022.

This is sensible. You never roll in cold on a major racing series with an all-new formula without doing the necessary development work first, a process that can easily consume a year or more. And while the Next Gen obviously bears similarities with today’s Cup car, it’s really an enormous advance from what NASCAR’s running now, arguably a more complete break with the past than the Car of Tomorrow represented when it was adopted following the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001. The Next Gen car is a marketing-driven technological effort to bring NASCAR’s top series into closer sync with what’s actually being driven on the street today. Among the expected changes are independent rear suspension, a revised body spec with a smaller rear spoiler and raised front splitter, bigger brakes, new 18-inch wheels with single center locking lugs designed by BBS of Germany, and the provision for the eventual adoption of a hybrid powertrain. The drivers who’ve been testing it on-track since last October seem to like it so far. Other recent news comes from the IndyCar side of racing, under its new owner, Roger Penske, which had just released a revised 2020 schedule that determinedly includes 15 races, up one from the original slate. The season will tentatively start June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, and will now incorporate a third date at Indianapolis, the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix on the speedway’s road course set for October 3rd. Perhaps the biggest news is the fact that to bring all this about, IndyCar will host two doubleheader race weekends, led by races over two days at the Iowa Speedway (a track I very much want to visit) on July 17th and 18th, and two full races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on September 19th and 20th. Hang in there, everybody, we’re going to get through this eventually.

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