Major NASCAR rules changes coming in 2015

NASCAR hopes less means more next season.

As in less horsepower in engines and less downforce on cars equating to more passing and a higher quality of racing in its premier Sprint Cup Series.

NASCAR unveiled its rules package Tuesday for the 2015 season, and it includes more than 50 changes that affect everything from the aerodynamics of the cars to the ability of drivers to make changes to the car chassis during a race.

“This race package represents a lot of hard work by NASCAR, the race teams, the drivers, our manufacturer partners and Goodyear,” said Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR senior vice president of innovation and racing development.

“We’ve remained committed to constantly looking at our racing, and the work that has been done has been aimed at getting a rules package delivered to the race teams as early as possible.”

Among the biggest changes that could be evident to fans is horsepower reduction, which likely will translate to roughly a 5 to 8 mph difference in typical track speeds.

Teams will have the ability to develop engines to produce more speed, although areas such as the cam shaft, intake manifold and cylinder heads likely will see changes. A tapered spacer also will be added to the engine after it has been constructed.

“For an engine builder to talk about less power isn’t a very popular subject. It’s our job to continue to make more,” said Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines. “We love more and more power.

“At the end of the day this is a competition and it’s a sport and it’s probably not wise for these cars to be running around at some of the speeds we are at the tracks we’re running.

“So, I think in order to make a step forward for the sport, this is one of the moves that (NASCAR chairman) Brian France feels is a step in the right direction and we’ll see how it goes.”

In addition to new aerodynamic rules, NASCAR also made several competition changes:

Six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, taking part in an appearance Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, said he expected the result of NASCAR’s recent tests would be to make cars “really hard to drive.”

“I think there’s a common voice among the drivers that we’d like to get the downforce out of the cars, make them harder to drive and end up with a softer tire on it,” he said.

Johnson said he had mixed feelings about the testing ban.

“We’ve been one that has used Nashville (Tenn.) and a lot of other race tracks to advance our cars, so we’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way – at the race track, use practice sessions as test sessions and also fall back on our tools and instruments we have in-house at Hendrick Motorsports,” he said.

NASCAR said teams caught attempting to skirt the testing ban will be issued the most severe penalty under its new penalty system.

‘Drives like a tank’

There have been times when Johnson said he felt his car “drives like a tank.”

Tuesday, he got the chance to make an exact comparison.

As part an appearance to promote the Oct. 11 Bank of America 500 at CMS, Johnson got the chance to drive a vintage World War II tank.

“The comparison’s fair,” Johnson said after powering over two junk cars. “They don’t turn very well. I just feel bad that I tore up the grass so bad.”

Up to 3,000 members of the Armed Forces and their families are expected to attend the race as part of the “Let the Troops Race” promotion. Bank of America also will donate up to $1 million to nonprofits that help veterans transition back to civilian life.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer