Two huge topics this week revolve around the new rules package coming at Kentucky and the overall safety of the sport. By adding four more tracks to the list of races with the update rules package, NASCAR hopes to tackle both obstacles before the Chase.
Those four tracks added to the list that starts with Kentucky this weekend are Indianapolis (July 26), Michigan (Aug. 16), Darlington (Sept. 6) and Richmond (Sept. 12). That provides NASCAR a look at four completely different styles of track after an initial look at an intermediate course.
“The ideal package for us is matching the tire with lower downforce, and when we looked at the schedule, the most ideal venue for that was Darlington,” NASCAR Vice President Steve O’Donnell said in a conference call on Wednesday. “So we feel like we have the lead time for Goodyear to come in and build that specific tire, so that’s why we moved forward on the Darlington package.”
The low downforce aero look brings the spoiler down from six to 3.5 inches and a splitter extension panel (radiator pan) reduction from 38 to 25 inches. Those changes alone are expected to reduce the downforce on the cars by an estimated 1,000 pounds.
Given those changes, NASCAR fans should see reduced speeds at an all-out track like Michigan. It’s hardly a restrictor-plate track like Michigan, but O’Donnell believes it will be a good sample of the reduced speed.
“You’ll see some significant mile‑per‑hour differences,” O’Donnell said. “That’ll change depending on single-car (runs) and the draft, but I think we’re looking at over 200 (mph) before and kind of the 191 range that we’d be looking at now.”
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O’Donnell noted that more practice time would be added for the future races, similar to Kentucky. That seems like a necessary evil considering that five of the last nine races heading into the Chase will be with the new rules package.
Michael Waltrip Racing driver David Ragan said he would like to see the rules package used at a variety of tracks during testing at Richmond earlier this season.
“I think if we see some promise at Kentucky and everyone agrees that it’s good and the fans like it … then I say we run it at every track,” Ragan said. “That would be a lot easier running the same package from here on out instead of switching. I think that needs to be run at a couple of different tracks before a decision is made and needs to be tweaked on and adjusted a little bit. But I would love to see it for every high-speed, one-mile and up course.”
Ragan also spoke about how he hoped NASCAR wouldn’t used the rules package for Richmond due to testing being done with the old rules. Ironically enough, NASCAR also used the same package for Darlington testing, so all of those notes can be shredded.
It should be interesting to see how the sport advances with the upcoming changes. We’ll get the first glimpse at Kentucky, but the race at MIS—the only duplicate race on the list—should give us a true idea of how much the new package will challenge the drivers.
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