The rules for NASCAR’s newest Next Gen cars are designed to make the new cars as symmetrical as possible, but some teams have already found a way around the rules. Previously, teams were allowed to run asymmetrical cars designed to maximize speed on banked left turns. During this week’s test session at Daytona International Speedway, some cars have been running some fairly excessive skew — and right now, it could very well be totally legal.
Basically, skew refers to a set up where the car is set to run at an angle. The front end looks like it’s pointing in a different direction than the direction the car is actually going, which gives the whole thing a sort of crab-walk look. Usually, the rear axle is mounted at an angle when compared to the chassis. For oval tracks, that skew conveys aerodynamic advantages and reduces the amount of turning input required to go left, which makes the cars easier to drive and, crucially, which makes them go faster.
This didn’t sit well with NASCAR for a lot of reasons. It creates further deviation from the Cup cars’ real-world counterparts, it presents a competition advantage for teams running skew, and it’s one of those things that teams can get crazy with if you don’t keep them in line.
NASCAR has made symmetry a key part of the formula for the upcoming 2022 season, in part to make one car that teams will use on both oval and road courses. But that skew is still making an appearance. Here’s Erik Jones running a ton of skew, which makes his car look like it’s pointing at the wall when it’s actually running straight:
As one crew member told me, “It’s all clip skew. You can run shims in the rear clip and fuck with the toe. So technically, as of this second, it’s totally legal.”
Basically, the axle itself isn’t skewed. So as of right now, it’s fine, since there’s nothing in the rulebook to disallow it.
And, even if something is eventually added to the rulebook, there’s no guarantee that teams will stop running skewed cars. The history of the sport is built on fudging the rulebook, and longtime fans will likely remember the Cars of Tomorrow that would pass tech inspection only to become magically more skewed on the track when the race started.