Denny Hamlin Criticizes Next Gen Cars After Talladega, Offers Solutions

“It’s interesting we spend a hundred and fifty laps riding to race the last 38."

by Sead Dedovic
Denny Hamlin Criticizes Next Gen Cars After Talladega, Offers Solutions
© James Gilbert/Getty Images Sport

The Next Gen era isn't receiving positive reactions, as fans and drivers aren't happy with the changes NASCAR has introduced. The Next Gen Car era began in 2022, with improved aero and downforce packages, along with new technologies on the track. NASCAR officials aimed to reduce costs, but the question is how successful they've been. 

Given the dissatisfaction of fans and drivers, it's necessary to take action and address certain issues. Denny Hamlin is one of those who has often voiced his concerns about the Next Gen cars, and this time is no exception. During his Actions Detrimental podcast, he reflected on the Talladega race. 

Denny Hamlin highlighted how, despite some moments of three-wide racing, the race mostly fell into two-by-two lines due to the high speeds, and attempts to form a third line were continuously thwarted.

Fuel consumption played a significant role in the race. Due to the Next-Gen car's notably high drag, it consumed more fuel compared to previous Cup cars. As a result, drivers had to operate at half throttle for much of the race.

“It’s interesting we spend a hundred and fifty laps riding to race the last 38. That was the goal, right? Once you get inside that last fuel window, then you can actually start racing. We saw racing today but it was after that Toyota crash. So from Lap 155 on is when we actually saw racing. But it was still just two by two racing because like Kyle Busch says, you cannot pull out of line, at all. The only way to fix it, well we gotta ask, what do we want to fix?"- Hamlin said, as quoted by On3!

Hamlin discussed the need to address the challenges in racing where overtaking is difficult. He emphasized the importance of reducing drag in the cars, suggesting adjustments such as lowering the spoiler height. However, he stressed that such changes could lead to increased speeds, necessitating further engine restrictions. This, in turn, might require engine builders to develop new engines to meet updated specifications, creating a recurring cycle of adjustments focused on engine modifications.

If the intention of NASCAR officials is to improve the product and meet everyone's expectations, then that could be the first step toward success. However, NASCAR officials must be prepared for such changes, and it seems that at this moment, they are not particularly motivated to move in that direction.

Denny Hamlin observed that drivers could cover about 40 miles on a single fuel run, and saving fuel was part of the plan to pit late and compete for points at the end of each stage. Tyler Reddick proved to be the best and managed to bring victory to his team. 23XI Racing Toyota can be happy considering how many quality drivers they have.

Having more fuel and shorter pit stops allowed drivers to gain positions on the track. Hamlin suggests that shortening the race to 400 miles could result in more aligned stage lengths. He explains that drivers engage in fuel-saving tactics because they prioritize stage points and aim to gain positions during pit stops towards the end of each stage. 

Hamlin stresses that if stage lengths matched full fuel runs, drivers would race aggressively throughout the entire event instead of waiting until the final 30 laps. He doesn't advocate for adding another stage to the race. 

Michael Jordan on Tyler Reddick's win and Hamlin's remarks

It's interesting that one of the owners of 23XI Racing, Michael Jordan, was present during part of the race. He couldn't hide his happiness with Reddick's success and emphasized that Hamlin's remarks about him bringing bad luck were not true. Jordan stated that the opposite had proven true. 

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan© James Gilbert/Getty Images Sport

The legendary basketball player is pleased with the efforts of the entire team to perform well in this race and strive for victory. He compared the Talladega race to NBA playoffs, especially happy about the team's fans who have been providing tireless support since day one.

Even though he, as a team owner, failed to achieve a good result, finishing 37th after crashing, Hamlin couldn't hide his delight with Tyler Reddick's performance, a member of the team of which he is a partial owner. Hamlin summed it up with one sentence: "Even when I lose, I win." 

While this race didn't bring him anything positive in terms of his own performance, Hamlin is happy and excited about Reddick's success. However, Denny admitted that it's somewhat difficult to be excited when he isn't satisfied with his own performance.

The very next race will be an opportunity for him to fix things and move in the right direction.

Denny Hamlin