Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A word from our President: NASCAR's new aero package

While most of the NASCAR community had the weekend off for Father's Day, NASCAR officials and teams were busy, partly due to a new rules package that was announced early in June. One of the most unique things about NASCAR is the ability to make changes and adapt to the needs of drivers and crews, even if the changes come halfway through the season.

Throughout the first 17 races this season, it has been hard not to notice that there has been a decline in the amount of lead changes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. While there are several opinions as to why this is, many in the garage area attribute the decline to the rules package set in place for the 2015 season. After collaboration with the teams and crews, NASCAR made the decision to alter the aerodynamics setup on the cars for the race on July 11 at Kentucky Speedway.

The rules consist of lowering the rear spoiler to 3.5 inches, reducing the size of the radiator pan to 25-inches, and the splitter will have 1 ¾ inch less overhang. The tires will have more grip, but these will not be tires specifically built for this package because of time constraints.

Now, if that all sounded like it was in a foreign language to you because you are not someone who works on NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars every weekend, you’re not alone.  To put it in laymen’s terms, a spoiler is a metal blade attached to the rear deck lid of the car that helps restrict airflow over the rear of the car, providing downforce and traction. The radiator pan is a metal plate that sits below the radiator and helps keep the air flowing freely under the car. A splitter is an aerodynamic device fitted to the front of the car that generates downforce and grip.

With that being said, what the new proposed package is designed to do is to reduce downforce, and could help produce more side-by-side competition, and therefore more green-flag lead changes.

For now, it appears as though the race at Kentucky will be the only one where this package is utilized. However, if it is deemed a success, we could be seeing a different rules package again later in the season. To help teams prepare for the single-race change, an extended practice session will be held at Kentucky Speedway on the Wednesday before the Saturday night race (July 11). After the checkered flag flies at Kentucky, NASCAR officials will take the information learned from the race and analyze it to see if there needs to be any more changes to races in the remaining 18 races of the 2015 season.

Initially, a version of this package that included lowering the spoiler height and changes to the splitter and splitter extension panel was scheduled to debut next year. But, with the rules package this year consisting of lower downforce and less horsepower, there was a continued increase in corner speeds and a decline in green-flag passes, which encouraged officials to release a potential new package early.

In a further effort to enhance the racing this season, NASCAR recently added an updated rules package, which will be implemented for races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 26), Michigan International Speedway (August 16), Darlington Raceway (September 6) and Richmond International Raceway (September 12).

This is precisely why this sport is so unique. In Major League Baseball, a new pitch clock system was tested at Spring Training to alert a pitcher of the amount of time he has before throwing a pitch, in order to control the length of games. However, that was tested during Spring Training, and still won’t roll out until the 2016 season at the earliest. A change like that could never be implemented in the middle of the season such as NASCAR is doing now.

While the new rules package is a change, it is always in the best interest of the fans and the drivers. NASCAR does a great job at communicating with stakeholders throughout the year to ensure everyone is satisfied, and is doing their part to provide fans a great show and a great weekend of racing when heading down to the racetrack.
The rules package could open the door for other changes this season, or it could be shelved until 2016. A tweak like this is in the middle of the season is just a reminder that the industry has the best interests in mind for everyone.

With the summer season of NASCAR coming up and our first road course of the season this weekend, the field will continue to be molded for the Chase, and before you know it, we will know who the 16 drivers will be competing for a championship here at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The best is yet to come!

-Matthew Becherer
President, Homestead-Miami Speedway