NBC’s Steve Letarte explains what to look for with new aero package at Kentucky

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A new aero package for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway has teams on the track today for two additional practice sessions.

NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte discusses what he’ll look for with the changes made to reduce downforce on cars.

Here’s what Letarte said:

NASCAR Talk: What will you be looking for at Kentucky with the new aero package?

Steve Letarte: I think that NASCAR’s idea of reducing downforce is great because the cars should actually increase speed on the straightway with the reduction in drag … which means at the end of the straightway they’re going to have to slow down more. I think the idea of accelerating more, decelerating more and then accelerating more out of the next corner is going to give drivers and crew chiefs the opportunity to have better racecars than their competitors.

Racing is about the competition of speed. What I like to see in good racing is passing, and passing, in my mind, will happen when you have some cars that handle worse than others. I think it’s a small step. I don’t think there’s going to be any guarantees on what we’re going to see at Kentucky from a competition standpoint. I applaud NASCAR for making changes. I think Goodyear wishes they had a different tire they could bring.

NT: Goodyear didn’t have time to bring a tire that perfectly matches the new package, so what should fans keep in mind in regards to that as they watch the race Saturday night?

Letarte: I think the biggest thing we’re going to have to learn from the rule changes is how the cars themselves perform. How much speed do they lose? How much grip do they really lose?

Someone is going to embrace this. They’re going to approach this with, ‘You know what, we’re smarter, we’re faster, we’re stronger, we’re going to go outrun our competitor,’ and that is going to be the storyline I’m going to watch.

But my concern with the tire is that if the tire doesn’t have enough grip … than as a competitor it is unnecessary to put new tires on, and that generates a different style of race. That generates a very strategic race from pit road. You have maybe less comers and goers in the field because the strategy then becomes more of a fuel conservation mode and to try to position yourself towards the front of the field by pit strategy.

If I was a competitor, I’d be happy because I think as a crew chief, I was best in those style of races. On our coverage this weekend, because that was a strength of mine, I’ll be able to explain to the fan at home if that is the case.