Growing up in middle Tennessee, I’d like to think I have a feel for lots of the cultural benchmarks of Southern culture. I can smoke a damn good pork shoulder, I know my way around a shotgun and a hunting camp, I can talk SEC football at the drop of a hat, and I know all the great Southern rock bands (I’m even starting to come around to country music). The boys and I grew up on lakes and cheap muni golf courses where we drank light beer and threw in lips ‘til the fireflies came out. I even saw Gravedigger crush some cars down at the old convention center on a SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! afternoon.
But there’s one glaring gap in my redneck resume, and that’s NASCAR. Sure, there were Daytona parties where we picked drivers and rocked novelty t-shirts with “Rubbin’s Racin” spray-painted on the back. But I never followed it closely, and I never went to a race. I think it’s about time to grab a pair of jorts, ice up the cooler, and right that wrong. I think it’s time to be a racing guy.
Turns out my instincts may be correct, as NASCAR has been quietly prepping for a new generation of racing themselves lately. This country’s premiere racing league and traveling tailgate extravaganza is in the final stages of rolling out the Next Gen racing car, due to hit tracks in 2022.
Not only do these things look sweeter than a Busch Light beer babe poster from the 90s, but apparently everything about them has been redesigned to make the cars safer, cheaper, and easier to maintain. Currently only three OEMs participate in NASCAR—Ford, Chevy, and Toyota—and the general belief is that the only way to lure new manufacturers is to make the engines electrical hybrids, which may prove to be true eventually. But the new standardizations of the Next Gen car will supposedly make the process of readying a car for a race much simpler and cheaper.
The alterations have also allowed for the future possibility of accepting a different powertrain than the 5.86-liter V8 currently under the hood. Dozens of other minor tweaks have also been made in an effort to incorporate parts by single-source manufacturers, instead of making teams construct their own chassis and internal components themselves.
If there’s anything else I know about Southerners, though, it’s that we like things the way we like them. So if these changes to NASCAR are being met with eye rolls and shaking heads for whatever reason, then please grant this budding fan a little grace. It sounds like the sport needs new blood and new dollars behind it, and instead of a lot of lip service like most corporations give you, it appears that NASCAR has at least figured out a plan to move the sport forward. According to insiders, the logistics of this massive operation should really take shape by summer of next year.
Will all of this internal improvement affect me as a fan? Not directly, I don’t think. But if it works well and attracts new investors to the sport, who’s to say the overall product won’t improve, too? Anything that juices up the sport and gets more people involved in the communities that NASCAR supports is a good thing in my book.
Oh yes, I can almost smell the octane and Old No 7 in the air right now. We’re going to be a NASCAR fans here at OutKick, so buckle up. To celebrate, I think this little breakthrough deserves an OutKick t-shirt. What should it say? How about: The South Will Race Again.