Bell 'excited' Next Gen is hard to drive

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Bell 'excited' Next Gen is hard to drive

NASCAR

Bell 'excited' Next Gen is hard to drive

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Christopher Bell spun in the final moments of his practice session at Auto Club Speedway, and his reaction afterwards probably wasn’t expected.

“Obviously, these cars are really hard to drive,” Bell told NASCAR on Fox with a smile on his face. “I’m excited about it. I think it’s going to be a ton of fun once we get going and get into a routine here.”

Yes, Bell was smiling about how the Next Gen race car handled in its first laps on the two-mile Auto Club Speedway.

Bell spun in Turn 4 as he was coming to pit road. He reported to his Joe Gibbs Racing team he “popped” a right front tire.

“I’m really happy with the balance of my Rheem Camry; it’s as good as I could have asked for, I guess,” Bell said. “I think all of us are out there hanging on.

“I was just trying to make an attempt to come to pit road and spun out like the rest of them.”

Bell was one of five drivers who had an issue in practice. But he was one of two drivers, alongside Chris Buescher, who spun but escaped without damage.

Kevin Harvick was the first to crash, he backed his Ford into the Turn 4 wall. A few moments later, Ross Chastain also crashed in Turn 4 when his Chevrolet shot to the right. Darrell Wallace Jr. picked up right rear damage when his Toyota got loose on entry into Turn 1 and tagged the wall before spinning.

Bell’s comments were not necessarily unexpected. As drivers put in more time testing the Next Gen car, hearing the car was more challenging to drive compared to the previous [Gen6] car became a common theme.

Some of the comments included Tyler Reddick saying the cars are on edge, which he felt was good. Ty Dillon felt like a driver’s margin for error would be smaller.

Because the Next Gen body is symmetrical, the side force drivers are used to is gone. Drivers now have to get used to a new feeling with the right rear.

Next Gen reacts differently, and drivers don’t have much time to respond when it gets out of shape. And unlike the previous car, Next Gen doesn’t catch itself and allow the driver to correct before trouble occurs.

“We don’t want the cars to be easy to drive,” NASCAR senior vice president of racing innovation John Probst said during a November test at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’ve always said we want the best drivers running upfront. I think if you look at a lot of the changes that we’ve made to the car, a lot of the side force that used to be in the car is gone, so it’s not as forgiving as it’s been before.”

Brad Keselowski had a similar reaction to Bell, saying drivers would be holding on going into Saturday’s qualifying session at Auto Club. But Keselowski pointed out that what’s taking place is what drivers want.

“The cars are hard to drive; they’re supposed to be that way,” he said. “I think a lot of the drivers asked for it, and we got what we wanted.

“After practice was over for our group, I thought, ‘Wow, we’re really bad. This thing drives terrible,’ and then I saw everybody else and was like, OK, maybe not that bad.”

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