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NASCAR tries different configurations in latest Next Gen test at Charlotte

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR worked through multiple changes to the Next Gen car Wednesday during the first run of its two-day organizational test at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The eight-hour session, which began at 8 a.m. ET and ended at 4 p.m. ET, broke up into three mini sessions, each with a different aero/engine configuration. The first featured a 550-horsepower engine with a seven-inch spoiler. The second was a 670-horsepower engine with a six-inch spoiler. The third and final remained the same, but the spoiler was offset to the passenger side.

Consistent across the packages, but new to Next Gen testing overall, were splitter stuffers, engine panel strakes and rear diffuser skirts. According to NASCAR, the purpose of these additions is to help with predictability in traffic. And unlike last time, there were actually on-track periods scheduled specifically for pack racing with each configuration.

Twenty-two drivers and 14 teams were listed on the roster provided by NASCAR.

Todd Gilliland made his top-dog introduction Wednesday, driving the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford. Gilliland had never tested a Next Gen car before, neither had he ever raced at the NASCAR Cup Series level. His move up from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was inked back in late November.

“There are so many differences — the shifting, the steering,” Gilliland said told NASCAR.com. “Just so many technical things that are different. But it‘s been really relieving to me that no, it‘s still a race car. After making my first laps, it‘s not too different driving wise than what we‘ve done before. So, I‘m just really excited to continue on testing throughout the day and on Friday, build my notebook as much as possible and get a ton of laps under my belt.”

Another breakthrough appearance: Justin Haley‘s No. 31 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. His new full-time number had not yet been revealed. Haley previously tested the No. 16 Chevy, which the team announced Tuesday will be shared by three part-time drivers in 2022 — Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric and AJ Allmendinger.

Drivers were not made available to the media Wednesday.

Teams will return to the 1.5-mile oval Friday for their second day of testing, again from 8 a.m. ET to 4 p.m. ET. By that point, NASCAR will have taken feedback from Wednesday and decided on one configuration to run for the entirety of the eight-hour block.

“I don’t really know which package I like the best because the last one we shifted the spoiler over with the same horsepower,” Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said. “We’re going to go here and talk and figure out which package everybody kinda liked and see if we can keep working on it. I think that’s what we’ve all got to do is come up with the best possible solution to make sure that we hit the track in 2022 with everything that we need to run well.”

The Next Gen car will make its first public outing Feb. 6 (6 p.m. ET) with the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum exhibition in Los Angeles. Its points-paying debut will be two weeks later in Florida with the 2022 Daytona 500 on Feb. 20 (2:30 p.m. ET). Both events will be broadcast on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio