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NASCAR aero hunt could result in third race

27 July 2016

NASCAR’s continuing search for better racing in its Sprint Cup Series could see a third outing this season for the latest ‘low low’ downforce aero package.

Comments following the Kentucky event suggested that the package, which as detailed in Race Tech last month further reduces aerodynamic component sizes particularly on the front splitter and rear spoiler, had produced less action than the equivalent event in 2015. However, winner Brad Keselowski suggested that the lack of passing could be partly due to resurfacing of the track before the 2016 event, resulting in a narrower ‘groove’ but added that the new rules package makes the cars harder to drive and requires a lot more precision as a driver.

“We’re still facing and fighting the same dilemmas in our sport of the lead car having a significant advantage over other cars in the field, but that advantage seemed to go from maybe on a 1 to 10 scale, from an 8 to a 6 or a 7 here, which I think is good, but until the track widens out and gets multiple grooves, I honestly think this is the best race you’re going to see on a repave,” said Keselowski. He added, though, that the aero package had won him the race, enabling him to take the lead from Kevin Harvick following the final restart. “If I could stay within a half a car length of him I could create an aero wake behind his car and loosen him up a little bit without touching him, and sure enough, we went down in the corner and it looked like he got really loose and I was able to make the move and get by him.

“There were certainly moves you could make today that you couldn’t make before with respect to getting behind somebody and being able to alter the way their car drove.”

NASCAR competition head Scott Miller suggested that the package had produced a safer race on the resurfaced track. “I think the corner speeds would have been extremely high, and with the higher downforce stepping out of the groove might have even had more consequences than we had.”

Series officials are reported to be considering running the package – which is likely to form the basis of the aerodynamic configuration for 2017 – at Michigan on 28 August. As reported last month the track hosted the first ‘in-race’ test on 12 June. However, the organising body has repeatedly insisted that there are no plans to make any changes to aerodynamic regulations during the remainder of the 2016 season and particularly in the season-ending 10-race ‘Chase for the Cup.’

Meanwhile NASCAR tyre supplier Goodyear has insisted that it will be ready for whichever aerodynamic specification the sport decides to use at Michigan, having used data from the 12 June race and testing to produce suitable tyres for both setups.

* Teams in NASCAR’s second-division Xfinity Series have been testing at Daytona with a view to cutting the tandem or ‘bump’ drafting that occurs at restrictor plate tracks such as the Speedway.

The practice sees one car push another for much of a lap, the two benefiting from more efficient aerodynamics, but can be dangerous, the second driver’s vision completely obscured.

It was eliminated in the lead Sprint Cup Series in 2014, primarily by reducing the efficiency of car cooling systems, ensuring they cannot run with the grille blocked for very long. Running for an extended period ‘hooked’ to a car in front is officially outlawed by NASCAR but some tandem drafting still takes place in Xfinity races. It is thought that the series is looking to follow the lead of the Sprint Cup by switching to a lower downforce format in 2017.

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