As a full pack of NASCAR Cup Series cars ran bumper-to-bumper and door-to-door in drafting sessions during testing at Daytona International Speedway this week, there was a very tangible sense of nervousness over whether or not a car or two -- or even more -- would end up wadded up and wrecked. And when the two day test finished without incident, there was an obvious sense of relief, as a very limited fleet of cars has left teams throughout NASCAR in a less than ideal position ahead of the 2022 season.
According to a report by Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, teams participating in this week's Next Gen test at Daytona indicated that they only have two completed cars ready for the 2022 season with three weeks until the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum and a little over a month left before the Daytona 500. While NASCAR had originally believed that teams would have five cars ready per individual car number by the start of the season, supply chain issues for parts vendors and delays on delivery of main components following various tweaks made to the Next Gen car during fall testing have led to a number of teams currently having only two cars complete and a third under construction.
The shortage of Next Gen cars presents a major part of the growing pains for the new Cup Series car. Unlike in the past, where race teams manufactured parts and pieces, all major parts with the exception of the engine must now be purchased from approved vendors. With no crossover from the previous generation of car to the Next Gen car, teams are now having to start over and assemble cars from scratch for the coming season.
As NASCAR more heavily regulates the inventory of cars that each race team has with the debut of the Next Gen car, NASCAR senior vice president of racing innovation John Probst maintained belief that teams would have enough equipment necessary to operate at the start of the season.
It doesn’t seem as if teams have as many cars as they would have hoped by this time. NASCAR’s John Probst says as far as supply of parts and pieces, NASCAR doesn’t believe there will be a shortage that keeps a team out of an event. What he said Tuesday at Daytona: pic.twitter.com/PciTQipA2m— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) January 11, 2022
"We're still on track for five cars per team," Probst said. "... We're not immune to the world. We're seeing COVID and supply chains being delayed and some of the distribution being delayed a little bit. I'd say that right now we don't see any parts or pieces that are gonna keep any car from racing in an event. We're working with the teams to make sure we implement backup cars in an efficient manner.
"And I think that while we're concerned, and I think that everyone is concerned -- and it's probably rightly so, that's what we do. We worry about things like that -- we don't see anything right now that's gonna keep anybody from racing at an event."
As NASCAR seeks to change the business model of race teams, lower costs, and increase parity, race teams will be limited to seven individual cars in a rotation at any given time starting in 2022, with NASCAR and the chassis supplier determining if a chassis can be repaired or must be replaced in the event of a crash. There has been some concern on whether or not the supply shortage could have an impact on the racing product early in the season -- particularly in the Daytona 500 -- as the idea has been floated that drivers could take a conservative approach for fear of wrecking what few cars they have.
Multiple drivers, however, stated that would not be the case despite present uncertainties.
"At this level, with this talent that's out there and these teams that are out there, you can't get by running 95 percent anymore. You've just got to get after it every lap," Joey Logano told reporters at Daytona. "... You can't go out there and race scared. You can't. You've got to go out there 100 percent every lap."
"(My race team has) given me the confidence that we'll be able to race as hard as we need to each and every week," Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said. "For me, that's the green light that I need to make sure that I go out and do my job."
The 2022 season marks the first time NASCAR has introduced a new generation of Cup car since 2013, when the Gen 6 made its debut in the 2013 Daytona 500. It should be noted that some similar issues were seen with the rollout of the Gen 6, as teams had faced a supply shortage due to a switch to carbon fiber hoods and decklids.