Gene Stefanyshyn

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NASCAR announces leadership promotions

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NASCAR announced promotions Thursday for some of its officials.

Gene Stefanyshyn will lead NASCAR’s international efforts as Senior Vice President and Chief International Officer. John Probst has been promoted to Vice President, Innovation and Racing Development, a position formerly held by Stefanyshyn.

Also, John Bobo has been promoted to Vice President, Racing Operations. Scott Prime has been promoted to Vice President, Strategic Development.

Stefanyshyn takes over the role Jim Cassidy held for three months before leaving the organization. Cassidy had been promoted from his position of Vice President, Racing Operations, a position now filled by Bobo.

Stefanyshyn joined NASCAR in May 2013 and helped shaped NASCAR’s approach to competition. He will continue to report to Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer

“Gene’s experience leading our strategic work and industry collaboration on innovating and improving our competition product, along with his prior international working experience, make him an ideal fit for the next phase of our international efforts,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “We are excited about the future direction of our international racing portfolio and are looking forward to Gene’s leadership across this growing platform.”

Probst, who joined NASCAR in 2016 after two decades of industry experience, will be responsible for leading the sport’s efforts toward enhancing competition and integrating innovation and technology across the sport’s at-track operations. He will report to O’Donnell.

“John was instrumental in the development of our new inspection process, incorporating best in class technology and technology partners into one of our most important competition operations,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “Integrating new, relevant technology into our operations and innovating our racing product are strategic priorities for us and John is well suited to continue the important leadership of this area.”

Probst recently joined NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan on the NASCAR on NBC Podcast. Listen to Probst on the podcast via the embed below or on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or Google Play.

Bobo, who joined NASCAR in 2010, will oversee racing operations across all national, touring and weekly series, manage the American Medical Response relationship and manage the sport’s drug testing program. He previously served as a state prosecutor, chief drug and alcohol policy advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and later head of U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration. He will report to O’Donnell.

“John brings leadership experience to our operations at the racetrack,” O’Donnell said. “His ability to develop smart, working solutions to difficult problems has set John apart – he’s a true professional that brings a steady hand in leading our racing operations.”

Prime, who joined NASCAR in 2015, will oversee key strategic initiatives and development of key new business platforms for the sport, as well as managing the council framework across NASCAR’s main stakeholders. Prime will report to Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s Chief Operating Officer.

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NASCAR to run new lower downforce package twice in the coming weeks

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will debut a lower downforce package next month at Michigan International Speedway and also run it in July at Kentucky Speedway in anticipation of using it all next season.

The rules — which are not expected to be adapted for the rest of this season after Kentucky — are intended to take more downforce and sideforce away and lower corner speeds, allowing drivers to maneuver more around each other.

The changes feature:

  • A reduced spoiler that will be 2.5 inches high and 53 inches wide. The current spoiler is 3.5 inches high. The width is the same as the width of a spoiler for superspeedway events.
  • A tapered deck lid fin
  • Neutral rear toe/skew setting
  • 2-inch wide splitter with current center section length.

Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR senior vice president of innovation and racing development, told reporters Thursday that changes made before this season reduced the downforce on cars from about 2,700 pounds to 1,800 pounds. He estimated that teams have gained about 300 pounds back.

The changes for Michigan and Kentucky (and next year) are intended to take away about 500 additional pounds of downforce.  Stefanyshyn said a goal is to get the cars down to about 1,500 pounds of downforce, understanding that anything NASCAR takes away, teams strive to get some of it back.

“We’ve netted a better racing product, but we haven’t netted some of the things that the drivers originally asked for, which was some more off-throttle time and some lower corner speeds to where they can actually race a little better,’’ said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition.

NASCAR tried the changes at a Goodyear tire test earlier this month with Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson. The smaller rear spoiler allowed teams to go slightly faster down the straightaways but the other changes caused them to lose about 10 mph in the corners, Stefanyshyn said.

Larson said the slower speeds in the corner is significant.

“There was a lot more off-throttle time with the lower downforce,’’ Larson said. “I think that’s always a plus when you can lift sooner. With the current package … you’re not ever all the way off the throttle. With the low-downforce, I was having to lift all the way off the throttle and if you want to call it coast into the corner both ends, which I thought was really good.’’

Even if the changes work as well as hoped, Michigan and Kentucky likely will be the only races they’ll be run this year. Teams could object to changes as the season enters the second half and closes on the Chase.

Michigan was chosen because it is an upcoming race. Kentucky has been repaved and teams will have a two-day test there. Each organization will be allowed to have one team there and NASCAR felt with the extra time there, it would provide a good chance to use the lower-downforce package.