A by-the-numbers look at lower downforce’s impact a year after its debut at Kentucky


SPARTA, Ky. – If NASCAR seems headed in the right direction with its rules, Kentucky Speedway might mark the line of demarcation where the turnaround began.

The 2015 visit by the Sprint Cup Series marked the debut of a lower downforce rules package that resulted in 2,665 green-flag passes (a 132 percent increase over 1,147 in 2014) and a track-record 22 green-flag passes for the lead.

The changes came at the behest of the drivers, and it resulted in NASCAR keeping the main elements – namely, a 3.5-inch spoiler – as the base for its rules this season.

“I would say this race a year ago was a huge landmark for our sport that maybe goes a little bit unnoticed,” Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski said. “In terms of we had a collaborative effort for a rules package, and we saw a significant increase, in my opinion, of the on-track product that we saw.  And I think that showcased a lot of hope for our abilities to work together as a sport that has kind of created a wave of momentum that we’re carrying today.”

Carl Edwards said the overwhelming consensus from drivers after last year’s Kentucky race helped drive the changes.

“Everyone’s demeanor, even guys that weren’t in it for the win, everybody got out and said, ‘That was fun,’ ” the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said. “NASCAR did a really great job at responding to that and implementing a lot of that stuff for this season.”

With the new rules helping decrease corner speeds, increase passing zones and keeping drivers off the accelerator, there have been noticeable impacts on track in 2016:

–There were records for green-flag passes for the lead at Auto Club Speedway (51), Bristol Motor Speedway (40) and Atlanta Motor Speedway (44).

–At Richmond International Raceway, which moved its April race from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, overall passes (2,083) and green-flag lead changes (18, a six-year high) increased from last season.

–The Sprint All-Star Race, despite a confounding format, produced 17 green-flag passes for the lead, nearly doubling last year’s total of nine.

Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at the repaved 1.5-mile oval will mark the second points race this season with a modified version of lower downforce that features a 2.5-inch spoiler, a splitter reduced to 2 inches and resized deck fin. It also sets the rear toe to neutral, preventing teams from “skewing” the cars to generate sideforce.

The changes also were used at Michigan International Speedway and in the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Off his victory last Saturday in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Keselowski is optimistic about how it’ll work at Kentucky.

“Thinking about the sport in general, a lot of strong momentum with things that are going on behind the scenes that I’m thrilled about with the cars and the rules and all the collaboration,” he said. “It’s really a fun time for me personally and professionally with everything that’s going on.”


NASCAR weekend schedule at Gateway, Portland


NASCAR’s top three series are racing this weekend in two different locations. Cup and Craftsman Truck teams will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and the Xfinity Series will compete at Portland International Raceway.

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)

Weekend weather

Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87 degrees during Truck qualifying.

Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 88 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 93 degrees around the start of the Truck race.

Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of 92 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Cup race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 1 – 8 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:45 a.m. – Noon — Cup qualifying  (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, June 4

Garage open

  • 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (240 laps, 300 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)


Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 73 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 6-11 p.m. Xfinity Series

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 10 a.m.  — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – Noon — Xfinity practice (No TV)
  • Noon – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.