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Editor’s Note: Bozi Tatarevic is a professional race mechanic and pit crew member. He will provide technical analysis for NASCAR.com throughout the 2022 season.
NASCAR’s return to the Circuit of The Americas is almost like a start. Not only is the Next Gen car making its road debut, it’s also a very different weather scenario given the wet conditions at last year’s races and the repaving that has happened since then. We saw drivers familiarize themselves with the track and setups on Saturday, with some notable brake spins and lock-ups during Cup Series practice and qualifying, as well as another demonstration of the Next Gen car’s durability.
Ryan Blaney spun in a practice session and found himself in the tire barrier with an apparent interaction with the rear left corner of his car. The composite body panels snapped back into place as soon as he pulled away from the scene and his team determined there were no suspension issues after inspecting the damage and sent him back on track .
Joey Hand wasn’t so lucky with his #15 Ford Mustang as he locked up his right front tire and ended up with a rubber peel resulting in a layer of rubber squirting out into the fender wells and fender breakage – along with damage to the hood and front bumper.
Hand was unable to qualify, but his Rick Ware Racing team got to work immediately and bolted in new composite body parts such as the front fender and bumper cover, as well as d other internal parts like the closing panel which is inside the fender.
The nature of the individually bolt-on composite panels allows for faster repairs, as we noted earlier this year, and the team was seen applying vinyl to the reassembled car less than four hours after the initial damage on the track.
Teams learn even more about the Next Gen car. Not only are they able to make repairs quickly if needed, but they also optimize areas where they can do development.
As we noted earlier this week, new rules have been put in place for wiper assemblies. While many teams use fairly standard wiper motors like the Bosch Motorsport WPA, it was apparent that wiper blade assemblies were being explored as an area to optimize the cars aerodynamics, some of the assemblies being built to what appeared to be the maximum size allowed in the rulebook.
The wipers are unlikely to be used for their primary purpose on Sunday, but fans and riders alike will be happy to see them sit idly by and enjoy the first dry road action of the season. .