NASCAR started in 1948, and there were 6 Generations so far, and there will be a 7th Generartion in the future.
Generation 1 (1948-1964)[edit | edit source]
The year that NASCAR was established was also the year the first-generation cars hit the track. It had a strictly-stock frame and body, doors strapped shut, seat belts required, and heavy-duty rear axles required to keep cars from flipping during a race. This generation was considered as the car of Sunday Sell on Monday. It was the only generation without aerodynamics and a modified frame, and some cars were convertibles (with an entire Convertible Division existing at one point). This generation quietly went into the night in 1964 without fanfare. Manufacturers of this era were wide and varied, including now-defunct makes such as Hudson (which dominated in the first half of the 1950s), DeSoto, and Willys, and international makes such as Jaguar (which managed to get a win), Aston Martin, and Porsche.
Generation 2 (1965-1980)[edit | edit source]
The second-generation began in 1965. It is by far the greatest generation, in which stock bodies on modified chassis became the rule, with Holman-Moody, Banjo Matthews and Hutchenson-Pagan building chassis for teams. This generation also heralded the Aero Wars, in which Ford and Chrysler were engaged in a pissing contest to see who could make the most-aerodynamic car; Ford produced the Ford Torino Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II, while Chrysler produced the iconic Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird; NASCAR reined them in in 1971 by introducing new rules that made the Aero Warriors uncompetitive. NASCAR came to the modern era a year later.
Other cars of this era included the Chevrolet Monte Carlo (which launched an era of Chevy dominance that lasted until 2018), the AMC Matador (a model that took everyone by surprise), and the Dodge Magnum (a model so aero-unfriendly, it caused Richard Petty to defect to GM). The era officially ended in 1980, but the car had one last hurrah in the 1981 season opener at Riverside, as the new third-generation cars weren't ready yet (this was an era where the season began on the last weekend of January at Riverside).
Generation 3 (1981-1991)[edit | edit source]
The third generation began in 1981. Because of the energy crisis, manufacturers were downsizing their cars to be more fuel-efficient, which NASCAR reflected by mandating a 110-inch wheelbase that still exists today. Generation 3 saw a second Aero War, when Ford introduced a new nose for the Ford Thunderbird in 1986 that did not resemble any showroom model, marking the beginning of the end for the notion of stock cars; GM responded by putting bubble-back windows on the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix, creating limited-run models in order to satisfy NASCAR's homologation rules. This generation also saw Chrysler exit the sport due to a series of terrible decisions, with the Dodge Mirada and Chrysler Imperial disappearing after 1985; Chrysler made an attempt to return in the late 80s with the new Chrysler LeBaron, but GM and Ford had, by this point, built support bases that would not be swayed; nevertheless, the LeBaron ran in ARCA until 1998, and found great success. Finally, this generation saw a renaissance for Buick, who scored the majority of their NASCAR wins in this generation, before leaving the sport altogether at the end of the generation in 1991.
Most notably of all, this generation saw a massive uptick in speed, culminating in Bill Elliott setting the stock car speed record of 212 MPH at Talladega in 1987. On race day, though, Bobby Allison blew a tire at over 200 MPH and went flying into the catchfence, tearing a 100-foot section out and sending debris flying into the grandstands; amazingly, the car did not go into the grandstands due to be deflected back onto the track by a tension cable, and Allison was uninjured, the worst injury being a female fan who lost an eye. After this, NASCAR's insurers told them to "bring these flying missiles under control" or lose their coverage, to which NASCAR responded by mandating restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega in 1988.
Generation 4 (1992-2007)[edit | edit source]
In 1992, the fourth Generation began. The lead shot was replaced by the lead ingot, the fuel mileage was cut so it would be easier for the drivers to lead more laps, and the bumpers, nose, and tail were composed of molded fiber glass based on production counterparts. Teams spent hours in a wind tunnel to gain aero edge, and the cars also had highly-modified bodies. To this day, fans are still debating as to when the fourth generation actually began. NASCAR officially places it in 1992, but fans believe 1995-96 to be a more accurate date, as 1995 was the year the new Chevrolet Monte Carlo replaced the Lumina, and 1996 saw the introduction of a radically different Pontiac Grand Prix body. Unlike the night-and-day difference between the second and third generations, the transition from Generation 3 to Generation 4 was more gradual. The notion of "stock cars" was completely thrown out the window in 1998 when Ford replaced the discontinued Thunderbird with the Taurus, a four-door sedan whose NASCAR counterpart couldn't be more divorced from its showroom counterpart. In 2001, Dodge made its return to the sport with the Intrepid. After the death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500, safety rules were put in place. In 2003, NASCAR stopped using non-common body templates and started using the same template for all cars. NASCAR officially places the end of this generation in 2006, when in truth, it actually ran many races in 2007 due to the fifth-generation car running a limited schedule that year to gradually ease the new car in.
Generation 5 (2007-2012)[edit | edit source]
The 5th Generation was known as the Car of Tomorrow. It was introduced in the 2007 Food City 500, in which it introduced new era of safety, it had a common body and chassis for all manufacturers reduced need for track-specific race cars, and front splitter, rear wing offer teams aero adjustment options. The rear wing was replaced by a more traditional spoiler partway into 2010 after the wing increased the frequency of airborne crashes by providing enough lift to render the roof flaps useless, with the nose following suit in 2011 with a one-piece, non-adjustable nose that had the unexpected side-effect of allowing cars to lock noses at Daytona and Talladega; this phenomenon had been discovered with the fourth-generation car in 2006, but this generation made it easier to do. By 2012, new rules were implemented at Daytona and Talladega that made this practice impossible and brought back traditional pack racing.
A Car of Tomorrow was also introduced in the Nationwide Series (now Xfinity Series) in 2010, but unlike the Cup Series cars, the Nationwide Series CoT went for a more stock-like appearance, trading the Ford Fusion and Dodge Charger for the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger. This car is still in use in the Xfinity Series, with the Chevrolet Impala having been replaced by the Camaro SS in 2014, the Toyota Camry replaced by the reintroduced Supra in 2019, and the Dodge Challenger soldiering on with privateer teams after Dodge dropped all factory support until their all-steel construction rendered them illegal under new body rules in 2019.
Generation 6 (2013-Present)[edit | edit source]
The sixth and current generation began in 2013. There is quite a bit of debate as to whether this counts as a new generation, as it was merely a new body on the existing Car of Tomorrow chassis. The new bodies were designed to better resemble their showroom counterparts, these being the Chevrolet SS (later replaced by the Camaro ZL1 in 2018), Ford Fusion (later replaced by the Mustang in 2019), and Toyota Camry (Dodge had designed a new Charger body, but after Penske went to Ford following the Fiat-Chrysler merger and new management trying to force Penske to make its own engines, resulting in Dodge leaving the sport altogether outside of the Pinty's Series in Canada; many fans still lament this loss, and blame Toyota for driving it out). Although the car's appearance was well-received, the racing product was a mixed bag, and over the next seven years, NASCAR would constantly tweak the racing package, even going as far as to replace the restrictor plate with a tapered spacer at Daytona and Talladega in 2019; while this made the racing at these tracks much more exciting, it also increased the amount of on-track accidents due to how close the cars were running and how gutsy the drivers were becoming, culminating in the 2020 Busch Clash ending with five cars running after every other car wrecked out (and the race winner Erik Jones won with a beaten-up nose), and the Daytona 500 a week later ending in an airborne crash that would have killed Ryan Newman (and for several hours, many fans feared this was the case), resulting in NASCAR tweaking the package by eliminating the aero ducts that had helped pass air back to other cars.
This generation was originally supposed to end after 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted testing for the Next Gen car, resulting in the sixth generation running one more year.
Generation 7 (Future)[edit | edit source]
The seventh generation was originally planned to begin in 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted testing, resulting in the car being delayed to 2022.
The new car is just that: completely new. Among other things, the car will have a brand-new body that will look even more stock appearance than the sixth-generation car, incorporating recent design trends such as a rear diffuser and a lack of a rear decklid. The car will be built on a completely new carbon fiber chassis, and will have features never-before-seen in NASCAR, including a floor-mounted six-speed sequential manual transmission, and the car will hew closer to those used in NASCAR-owned IMSA, such as an independent rear suspension, 18-inch single-lugnut aluminum wheels, and clamp-on refueling hoses instead of fuel cans.
The first prototype car debuted for on-track testing in October 2019, with a body that doesn't represent any single manufacturer (though many fans describe it as a cross between a Chevrolet Camaro and a Dodge Charger). The car's sound has been warmly received by fans, who favorably compare it to the fourth-generation cars of the 1990s; this can be chalked up to the car using an X-pipe exhaust instead of a Y-type, an exhaust type not seen since the fourth-generation.
So far, the only car set in stone is the Toyota Camry; Chevrolet and Ford will presumably stick with the Camaro and Mustang, respectively. One of the primary goals of the Next Gen car is to attract new manufacturers to the sport by greatly cutting costs; rumored manufacturers include Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen, and Kia, as well as Dodge making another comeback.