NASCAR Just Unveiled Another Big Change for Its Next-Gen Car

With the 2020 NASCAR in full swing, the racing organization is preparing for the next generation of vehicles that will debut in 2021. One of the biggest changes for the upcoming car is that the traditional five-lug pattern will no longer be used on the wheels. Instead, NASCAR will be switching to a one-lug system for fastening tire and wheel assemblies.

An example of this design was unveiled on Monday. An 18-inch aluminum wheel was shown with Goodyear tires and a single lug hole in the center. This is three inches larger than the current tire on Cup Series cars.

According to John Probst, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, the move to a larger aluminum wheel was done in pursuit of providing more relevance and a stronger correlation to modern production cars. After considerable testing of the 18-inch wheel with the five-lug pattern, Probst and the NASCAR team felt that it was best to use a one-lug system.

"For us, we felt like from a standpoint of the wheel is that we wanted to get to an 18-inch wheel, an aluminum wheel," Probst said. "Once you get to an 18-inch aluminum wheel, the next step for us is to make sure that from a durability standpoint under racing conditions is that it will accept the durability that we need to finish races and then also finish multiple races. To do that, the single nut was our only option."

NASCAR driver William Byron tested out the next-gen car on Monday, putting it through some paces on Monday and Tuesday at Auto Club Speedway. This was the fourth on-track test of the vehicle, but the first with the new tire and wheel setup. The three previous tests featured the 18-inch aluminum wheel with the five-lug pattern that has become a staple of NASCAR.

There will be some obvious changes from previous vehicles in terms of appearance, but Probst believes that the rest will be minuscule. He – and the competition officials – are of the mindset that the execution of the pit stops will not be affected.

"I think from a fan standpoint, the choreography of the pit stop will look unchanged," Probst said. "I think that a lot of times when we say single lug nut, people fear that it's an open-wheel style pit stop where people will be on their knees waiting for the car to come in. We don't intend to change anything with respect to how the pit-stop flow is executed.

"There will still be guys coming off the wall, there will still be a premium for that athlete to come off the wall, get to the right side of the car, make that tire change, get over to the left side of the car and make the tire change. From the look and feel of the pit stop, we don't see any significant changes."

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If anything, Probst believes that there will now be a larger emphasis on getting the single lug tight. He explained that the aluminum wheel is less forgiving than a traditional steel wheel. If the lugs are loose, they can reduce the durability of the wheel by 30 percent.

(Photo Credit: Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)