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Joey Logano’s crew chief likes new aero rules, drop in downforce

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The force will not be with Todd Gordon, Joey Logano or any other crew chief and driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as much this season.

Downforce, that is.

On Monday’s “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Gordon talked at length about how the new aero rules will impact racing this season in NASCAR’s premier series.

Following last month’s tire test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Jan. 10-11) and last week’s test at Phoenix Raceway, Gordon said Logano’s No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion showed a dramatic drop in downforce.

“If you look to Las Vegas test to Las Vegas test over two years (2016 vs. 2017), at probably 200 mph, it’s probably 500 pounds of downforce that they’ve taken off the cars,” Gordon said. “It’s a substantial number, but obviously as you go slower, that becomes reduced.

“Middle of the corner, it’s probably about half that because our speeds are in the 150 (mph) range at some places. But it’s still a dramatic change in downforce, but I think it’s made better racing, less dirty air and we’ll continue on that path.”

One of the key differences is in the makeup and size of the rear spoiler. During last year’s low downforce races at Kentucky and Michigan, the rear spoiler was 2.5 inches tall, down from the 3.5-inch spoiler used in other races. This season, for all races, the rear spoiler will be 2.35 inches tall.

“It’s a little different than what we had for low downforce last year in that the spoiler we had at Kentucky and Michigan was taller and narrower than what we got this year,” Gordon said. “Similar amounts of downforce, a little more sideforce with the spoiler being wider than what it was at the low downforce races last year.”

The Phoenix test only heightened Gordon’s optimism about how the new aero rules will come into play.

“I really like it,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think NASCAR did a good job in trying to keep balance in our race cars as they’ve taken downforce away from them. The cars aren’t drastically different in the balance they’ve got.

“When Joey hopped in and drove it, it’s not like ‘Oh my goodness, we’ve got to tighten up a bunch or free up a bunch.’ The mechanical balance that we’ve got to have with the car is still the same, it just slides around more. I think NASCAR did a great job identifying what we need to do there. It’s going to make it interesting.

“I’d say the bigger piece, the ‘Oh my God moment’ was when we went to the Las Vegas test. Joey said, ‘Holy cow, these things continue accelerating down to the corner.’ It used to be when we got to the start/finish line that there’d be so much drag on the car, the car would quit accelerating with so much drag.

“Now that spoiler is smaller and it continues to accelerate all the way down into the corner, it’s a lot of speed that we make into the corner but we’ve also taken some of that corner speed out of them. I think it’ll be good for racing. It showed that last year when we ran it the few times we did and I really look forward to what we’ve got.”

MORE: Changes to NASCAR rulebook – driver biometrics, roof hatch, rear spoiler height

Erik Jones, in his rookie NASCAR Cup season, agrees with Gordon that the new aero rules make for a noticeable impact while driving his No. 77 Toyota Camry for Furniture Row Racing.

“It’s different; it’s a lot different,” Jones said at last week’s test in Phoenix. “This is the second time I’ve driven the low, down-force package. Quite a bit different in general and a little bit more challenging overall to drive than what the Xfinity cars are or the what the previous package was on the Cup cars when I drove it in 2015. Just kind of figuring it out.”

On the flipside is Kevin Harvick. After 35 career Cup wins, all in Chevrolets, the 2014 Cup champ said the biggest difference in the switch to Ford is “the way it sounds.”

MORE: Harvick begins Stewart-Haas Ford era at Phoenix test.

“The drivability of it isn’t that big of a difference,” Harvick said. “But the balance of the car is a bit different than we’ve had in the past – just not one reason for that though.

“I think that’s a little bit where we’re at right now – the balance of the car with the balance of the new aero package.”

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NASCAR America: Dog days of summer can challenge teams in many ways

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Today is the first day of summer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows better than most how hot temperatures can change a driver’s season.

The dog days of summer 2004 contributed to the breakup of Junior’s team.

“If the car’s not running well, the driver’s got to bite his tongue,” Earnhardt said. “If he doesn’t bite his tongue, he gets snappy at the team. The team gets frustrated. A team can literally unravel as the season goes. Me and Tony (Eury) Jr., Tony (Eury) Sr. won six races in 2004 going into the playoffs and we split up at the end of the year because we were so upset and mad at each other at the end of the season. The heat can do that.”

Being trapped inside the car in unbearable heat takes a toll on the driver – but it also wears on the crew.

“I don’t think it translates well over to the public how hot it is throughout the weekend in the summer races. The humidity in Michigan – it’s a 120, 130 degrees inside the cars. The crews are dealing with this heat in the garage during practice.”

Critical moments exacerbated by heat in the next five races might very well decide who wins and loses the championship once the cooler temperatures of fall arrive.

“If you’re not running well – you’re inside that car during practice. You can’t get out, they’re making a change and sending you back out. You’re sweating, you’re miserable, the car’s not responding. If you say the wrong thing, it can set the tone for the entire weekend.”

And the entire season, like it did for Earnhardt in 2004.

“For drivers that can handle that kind of heat and handle that frustration when things aren’t quite right, those guys will excel and not stub their toe, not make those mistakes going into the playoffs,” Earnhardt said.

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America: Better equipment, skilled drivers changed road racing

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The Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway is the first of three road course races on the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar and the preparation involved in setting up these cars is much greater today than it has been in the past, according to NASCAR America analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett.

“I think the same emphasis is put in those two road course races and the cars that will be in those races,” Earnhardt said. “And now the Roval that will be at Charlotte – being a very important race in the playoffs – these road course racers are even more important.”

Man and machine need to be equal to the challenge.

“Not only is the emphasis more on the drivers to prepare and learn how to become road course racers, but there is a lot more emphasis on the cars too,” Earnhardt said. “All the cars are so much more similar and there is a lot more dedication to preparing the cars for these particular races. It’s almost like there is as much effort into putting a good road course car on the track as there is speedway cars – like Daytona and Talladega cars.”

Even the best driver cannot compete in equipment that is not up to the challenge and it took some outside expertise to raise NASCAR to the level of other marquee road racing series mechanically. Car owners like Jack Roush and road ringers like Boris Said contributed to the evolution of the racing discipline.

“The cars are so much better now than when we started,” Dale Jarrett said. “Whenever I got started in the Cup series fulltime in ’87, there were a couple of good road racers – and I think of Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace … but Jack Roush brought something totally new into the sport a little later in the 80s and early 90s. … Their equipment was a little bit better because they understood road racing a little more. Now everybody has all that.”

Jarrett recalled what he believes might be one of the biggest upsets of his career. He won the pole for the 2001 Global Crossing at the Glen because he received a tip from Said, who told him he was not getting deep enough into the corners because his brakes were not good enough.

“You talk about road course ringers: Boris Said and Ron Fellows and some other guys coming in,” Jarrett said. “One of the things that helped them, they were better because they did it all the time, but they also would tell the teams they were going to drive for, ‘hey, there’s a lot better braking and other things out there that you can do.’ They came in and they had better equipment, which made them look even that much better than what we were.”

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett preview upcoming races

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Dale Earnhardt Jr. making his weekly appearance on the show.

Krista Voda hosts with Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett from the Big Oak Table in Charlotte.

On today’s show:

· Not long ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. bragged about his ability to remember who he’s beaten for wins in past races. In this episode, we’ll test his memory in a trivia game called “Who Did Junior Pass For The Win?” We’ll be taking your questions for Junior throughout the show. Just send it on social media with the hashtag #Wednesdale.

· Sonoma begins a critical summer stretch for the Monster Energy Cup Series. With Chicagoland, Daytona, Kentucky and New Hampshire on the horizon, teams will be challenged and playoff hopes will rise and fall. Dale Jr. & Dale Jarrett preview the upcoming races.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Three Cup drivers will reach career start milestones at Sonoma

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Three Cup drivers will reach career start milestones when the series visits Sonoma Raceway this weekend.

Ryan Newman leads the way with his 600th Cup start.

The Richard Childress Racing driver will become the 28th driver to reach the mark. His first start came on Nov. 5, 2000 at ISM Raceway with Team Penske.

Newman is one of four remaining active Cup drivers, including Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Derrike Cope, who competed against Dale Earnhardt in a Cup points race. Only Newman and Busch compete full-time.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin will make his 450th start. He will become the 52nd driver to reach that mark.

Hamlin’s first start came on Oct. 9, 2005 at Kansas Speedway. All of his starts have been with JGR.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make his 200th career start. He will be the 132nd driver to reach that mark.

Stenhouse’s first start came in the 2011 Coca-Cola 600 with Wood Brothers Racing when he substituted for Trevor Bayne, who was out due to illness. Every other start has been with Roush Fenway Racing.

The last race at Michigan International Speedway saw AJ Allmendinger make his 350th Cup start. 71 drivers have reached that mark.