Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media
CONCORD, North Carolina – Like bees invading a beehive, mechanics and engineers surrounded the wreckage of Austin Dillon’s No.3 Chevrolet, once dropped by the tow truck in the garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Staff from several teams, manufacturers and NASCAR itself buzzed with camera phones in hand, trying to locate and capture areas of impact for further examination and assessment. Everyone wanted info.
That was the whole point of Wednesday’s Next Gen test, which continues on Thursday.
“When the incident happened, we actually left our spot in the Speedway Club and went over there,” said John Probst, senior vice president of racing innovation at NASCAR. “We spoke to first responders. They said (Dillon) was already out of the car. Then we went to see him at the infield care center. He had already been released before we could get there.
“So, yeah, it was a really good feeling to know the car was performing as expected. Looking at the front bumper on it, it looked like it had crushed the way it was designed to do.
VIDEO: John Probst breaks down response to Austin Dillon wreck
In the first 20 minutes of the 11am session that started at 9am ET, Dillon’s car hit the outside wall on Turn 2 before sliding down the track into the inside wall. The left front suffered the most damage, as the Next Gen’s composite body collapsed on first contact. NASCAR described the force as “above average impact” after analyzing the data.
Dillon was present in the garage but was not available for interviews.
“Speaking with him, he felt like it was no different than what he had felt in the past,” said Probst, “so I think that was definitely a good point of reference.”
Dillon, entering his ninth full-time season with Richard Childress Racing, pulled up to empty pit # 3 before going to see his Chevrolet nearly 40 minutes after the crash on the track. He briefly chatted with defending champion Kyle Larson and vice president of competition Hendrick Motorsports Chad Knaus. Dillon hung around for more than 10 minutes before heading for his dump truck.
Larson and Knaus were just a few of the many people to visit. When the car first arrived, drivers such as Denny Hamlin (a Toyota driver), Daniel Suarez (Chevrolet), Michael McDowell (Ford) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Chevrolet) pulled over for review. Hendrick’s crew chief Alan Gustafson took a look at another Chevrolet glimpse.
RCR actually had the option of taking the car back to its workshop and rebuilding the exact same one to continue testing. A crew left before 11:00 a.m.ET. The face of the vehicle had already been torn off when it left – the hood, bumper and any exterior were all removed. Some parts and internal parts impacted were also separated.
“One of the design criteria we put in the car was being able to replace the front clip,” said Probst. “And they were able to do it this afternoon and this car is on its way back here or will be shortly.”
The car returned around 7 p.m. ET. Dillon was back on track with an hour to spare. Overall, RCR replaced the left front quarter panel, tail, front fairing, hood, splitter, front clip, engine and front suspension.
Findings of the wreckage of the car and the rebirth of Dillon could potentially benefit the sport as a whole as Next Gen developments continue ahead of its competitive debut on February 6 during the Busch Light Clash 2022 in Los Angeles. Memorial Coliseum.
“We never like to see them crash,” said Probst. “But we felt the car was running really well.”
VIDEO: Watch Austin Dillon return to the track with a repaired car