WELCOME, N.C. — Ryan Newman, the only active Sprint Cup driver with an engineering degree, says there are simple ways to keep cars from getting airborne at Daytona and Talladega.
Slow them down and eliminate the ride height rule.
“I’ve been a big outspoken person, I guess you could say, about the cars needing to stay on the ground for the drivers’ benefit and more importantly for the fans’ benefit,’’ Newman said Wednesday at Richard Childress Racing for the unveiling of his Southern 500 car. “When we get up in the grandstand you’re risking one driver, but you’re risking several fans and we don’t need that.
“NASCAR has done a really good job of keeping parts of the race car on to keep it out of the grandstands, tethers here and tethers there. We need to continue to keep the race car on the ground so that the biggest piece of mass that we have is not endangering the fans of our sport.’’
Newman, who has gone upside down at both Daytona and Talladega, says NASCAR doesn’t need to slow the cars down much. He suggested a top speed around 185 mph as opposed to laps near 200 mph.
“The cars have a certain liftoff speed when they get around turned around,’’ he said. “That liftoff speed is obviously right around 200 mph.’’
Newman also suggests that slower speeds could reduce the chance of a car getting airborne after being hit by another car.
“The slower you go, the less likely you’re going to be in those situations as well,’’ he said. “As long as cars are moving, you’re always going to have cars get airborne, but they need to be airborne and coming back down to earth quick, not flying out of control and coming down on the A post on the inside wall and things like that.’’
The discussion comes after the recent Talladega race where Chris Buescher’s car tumbled down the backstretch, Matt Kenseth’s car went upside down and Kevin Harvick’s car got partially up in the air in separate incidents. No one was injured in those accidents.
“To have 2 1/2 in one race was way too many and the cars just need to slow down,’’ Newman said.
Newman also says a “simple step” would be a rule change.
“The no-brainer in my eyes is to get rid of the height rule,’’ he said. “Basically our cars want to come back up. We have a no-height rule at every other race track except the superspeedways, so if we just ran stiffer rear springs and pushed the cars down 2 inches or whatever, they’re going to be less likely to pack air underneath them when they get backwards.
“I’m not saying it’s going to cure everything. It’s a simple step. We’re running the cars on the ground anyway, but when they get turned around, they naturally want to pop back up. As soon as they pop up, the volume of air underneath them probably triples, I don’t know the number, and at that point you’ve got lift, lift off.’’
The next restrictor-plate race is July 2 at Daytona International Speedway. Austin Dillon’s car flew into the catch fence after the checkered flag flew in that race last year. He was uninjured but five fans were hurt. That marked the third time since 2012 that fans had been injured when a vehicle got into the fence at Daytona.