In a move it hopes will improve the quality of racing, NASCAR announced Wednesday a low-downforce aerodynamic package at all but two of its tracks for the 2016 season.
NASCAR has taken criticism – from fans and its drivers – in recent years for what has been perceived a lack of exciting racing, with passing hard to come by. Drivers, for instance, complained Sunday after they had problems passing during the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The change wasn’t unexpected; drivers applauded the package when it was tested at races at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington (S.C.) International Raceway.
Here’s what you need to know about the new rules package:
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What will change: The package will include a 3.5-inch spoiler, a .25-inch front leading splitter edge and a 33-inch wide radiator pan. The spoiler in the current aerodynamic package is 6 inches high.
What it means: The decreased downforce package will allow drivers to better use their skills, by staying off the throttle more and slowing their speeds in the corners. Each track will also feature its own packages, aimed more specifically at tires and gear ratios.
Not everywhere: The package won’t be used at NASCAR’s two superspeedways – Daytona International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Roller lifters (which reduce friction) will be added to engines for those tracks, increasing horsepower. That means means restrictor-plate sizes will be adjusted at Daytona Beach, Fla., and Talladega.
Other alternatives: NASCAR tried a high-drag package at races at Michigan International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The racing at those events wasn’t improved – very little passing was done – and drivers voiced their displeasure.
What they said: “This is where we want to go. It’s a step in the right direction for us and we’ll never stop. We’ll take this to 2016 and then evolve into 2017.” – Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president.
▪ “It’s a package that really puts the drivers more in control during the race. In the past, we’ve just flat-footed at the mile-and-a-half tracks, but now, you’re working the gas and using the brake more, which allows for more passing.” – driver Aric Almirola.
Other news: Several safety updates for the 2016 season were also announced: including a double air duct at the right-hand side window, a fire suppression activation system routed to the dash or right-hand side leg board and a seat-belt system that meets higher standards. O’Donnell said that a digital dashboard will be mandatory on Cup cars in 2016.
Next Cup race
Where: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.
When: 2:15 p.m. Sunday
Qualifying: 6 p.m. Friday (NBCSN)