Rules changes not expected to impact Chase; Jeff Gordon anxious to try potential changes at Michigan, Indy

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With NASCAR weighing more track-specific rules changes to be implemented this season, Sprint Cup drivers have been told the Chase for the Sprint Cup likely will remain unaltered.

During a meeting with the newly formed driver’s council, NASCAR executives said any new rules likely would apply only to the final 10 races of the regular season – even though a lower-downforce package will be tried in a Goodyear test July 13 at Chicagoland Speedway, whose Sept. 20 race will open the Chase.

“We discussed in the meeting today that there would be no decision on a unique package other than what we’ve run this year in the Chase,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after being awarded the top starting position for Sunday night’s Coke Zero 400 after qualifying was canceled for inclement weather at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ll be at that Chicago test. I think it’s a great idea to go there and take whatever package they would like to try because it’s a great opportunity to be there. We’ll be there three full days. We’ll need some stuff to do.

“I think to try the low-downforce package there is just a great opportunity, and I don’t think it would really insinuate that they would try to use that package in the Chase race. From what I heard today in our discussion, NASCAR was apprehensive, really, to use any other package than what we’ve had all year in the Chase. They would work with the teams and the drivers before making that type of decision.”

During a conference call Saturday afternoon, NASCAR told manufacturers and teams that the lower-downforce package making its debut next week at Kentucky Speedway also will be tested at Chicagoland. The package successfully was tested with a new tire Tuesday at Darlington Raceway and could be used for the Southern 500 on Sept. 6.

NASCAR also told teams to prepare for using a high-drag package for the the July 26 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Aug. 16 event at Michigan International Speedway. Those races would feature a taller spoiler with wickers, lower rear-bumper extensions and a wider radiator pan.

Jeff Gordon participated in a late April tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway said he was “really anxious to see what’s going to happen balance-wise with that package there.

“I think it’s obvious to all of us that that’s one of the hardest places we have to pass and if they can create a way to get more passing … it’s all in theory. It’s all in computer simulation and wind tunnel. We all are in favor of trying a low-downforce package, and we want to try the opposite of that. I think that Indy and Michigan are good tracks to try that out.’’

Gordon said increasing drag would slow down the cars significantly through the corners, helping emphasize the mechanical grip to keep a trailing car better glued to the track without the downforce related to aerodynamics (which can make passing more difficult).

“If we can get the speeds right, then what it is going to do is create a really massive hole in the air for you to draft up to down the straightaway,” Gordon said. “Those are long straightaways at both of those tracks.  The question is still what is going to happen when you are behind another car through a corner.

“The magic is there, we just have to figure out how to pull it off. It is not just a quick little easy aero fix. Maybe we need to learn how to find more mechanical grip or have more tools to work with. Is it a lower center of gravity? Is it more left-side weight? Is it a lighter overall car? Softer tires? Harder tires? There are a lot of different things that can be thrown out there. I love the fact that we are looking, constantly looking for ways to improve. No different than working to find a way to save the teams money. It is always something that you are constantly working at.”