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Busy days ahead: Next Gen, Hall of Fame, Chili Bowl

The holidays are in the rearview mirror and business is about to pick up in the NASCAR world prior to the start of the 2022 season.


The newly reconfigured and repaved Atlanta Motor Speedway is the site of an important Goodyear tire test this week. The 1.5-mile Georgia track has been transformed after months of work. As part of the track’s reconfiguration, the banking in the corners has been increased from 24 to 28 degrees – higher than any other intermediate track on the NASCAR schedule. The track width was decreased from 55 to 40 feet in the corners. The frontstretch is now 52 feet wide and the backstretch is 42 feet. The test this week will include drivers from the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series before a trio – Chris Buescher, Ross Chastain and Kurt Busch – test the Cup Series’ Next Gen car. NASCAR will then decide what horsepower package will be used at Atlanta this year with most feeling the 510 horsepower, which is set to be used at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, will be employed – basically making Atlanta a third track utilizing superspeedway rules. Let the drafting begin.


The 36th annual Chili Bowl Nationals will take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from Jan. 10-15 inside the SageNet Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square on a quarter-mile dirt track. More than 380 drivers will compete for the coveted Golden Driller trophy in the six-day midget-racing event. There will again be a large NASCAR flavor to the proceedings led by reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Larson. Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Carson Hocevar are a few of the names looking for some mid-winner glory in Tulsa.


The Next Gen car testing schedule heads back to Daytona for a two-day session Jan. 11-12. Now that the rules have been finalized by NASCAR, teams will have a chance to put their cars through the paces at The World Center of Racing in final preparation for Speedweeks, which kicks off with practice Feb. 15.  The test promises to be an important tune-up as teams try to stay ahead of the game as much as possible in preparation for the 64th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 20.


The pandemic forced the postponement of last year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony. But the class will get its long-overdue celebration on Jan. 21 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the 12th HOF class, which also includes Red Farmer and Mike Stefanik. Other honorees include Ralph Seagraves as the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR and Bob Jenkins receiving the Squier-Hall Award.


The final tune-up for the 2022 season comes at Phoenix Raceway on Jan. 25-26. A Next Gen organizational test at the one-mile oval will provide teams with the last offseason chance at dialing in the new machine for the coming season. Originally slated for earlier in December, the Phoenix session replaces what was originally scheduled for Las Vegas Motor Speedway. See the full development timeline.