NASCAR changes rules to reduce downforce for next month’s Kentucky race

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NASCAR will introduce a new aero package for next month’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, series officials announced Tuesday.

The move comes after concerns raised by drivers about the racing this season and ability to pass. This also comes a little more than a month after a NASCAR official suggested next year’s rules package could be the same as this season’s package.

NASCAR will reduce downforce on cars by cutting the rear spoiler and making other changes. The spoiler has been reduced to 3.5 inches. There will be a 25-inch radiator pan, and the splitter will have 1 3/4 inch less overhang. The tires will have more grip, but these will not be tires specifically built for this package because there isn’t enough time to do so.

“We care committed to putting on the best racing on the track,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief operation officer. “The work won’t stop with this announcement.”

O’Donnell said additional changes could be made for the Kentucky race.

The rules are intended to improve passing. Lead changes have declined in 12 of the first 15 races this season compared to races at those tracks last year. Only Texas (11 more lead changes this year compared to last), Atlanta (seven more) and Bristol (one more) have seen an increase in the number of lead changes compared to last year.

“We certainly want to see more lead changes on the race track,” O’Donnell said. “We’ll evaluate not only that but a number of different factors coming out of Kentucky and seeing what we can learn and potentially implement down the road.”

To accommodate teams, NASCAR will give teams a four-hour practice session July 8. Cup teams will not return to the track until July 10 (Xfinity and Camping World Truck teams will be on the track July 9). The Cup series races July 11 at Kentucky on NBCSN.

The rule change – for now – is only Kentucky Speedway, although they could be used again if things go well.

“Any options are on the table coming out of Kentucky,” O’Donnell said.

He noted that teams have data from simulation and testing on this package.

“We’ve had an extensive testing plan with the industry over the last 18 months,” O’Donnell said. “We feel confident and we wouldn’t implement this if we didn’t feel confident as an industry to implement it at Kentucky.”

O’Donnell said drivers, teams and manufacturers were consulted before the changes.

“There are some drivers who are very vocal of wanting to pursue this angle,” O’Donnell said. “There are some who actually like a very different rules package. I would say all are aligned in terms of the package that we’re heading into for Kentucky.

“We believe we can deliver a race at Kentucky that the industry will all be proud of.”