Already looking forward, NASCAR is working on ways to improve the quality of racing in their decisions in forming the 2015 rules package. NASCAR has seen the comments from the fans and is looking to give them a better product moving forward that includes “a lot of passing, a lot of side-by-side and a lot of lead changes”.
Part of that research included conducting a test at Michigan International Speedway on Monday. The decision was made to test on Monday at Michigan after Sunday’s cup race due to three constraints – the teams would like the rules by September 30th, NASCAR didn’t want to go to a track that they still have a race scheduled yet, and it seemed effective to do so with the timing and scoring already in place from the race.
NASCAR’s Vice President of Racing Development Gene Stefanyshyn said the test was a way to put what they had found through analysis and conclusions to the test on the actual race track. NASCAR went about doing that by breaking it into six different tests, with each of set of rules being tested under a ‘heat race’ format in getting the 10 cars on hand to run 10-20 lap heat races. Stefanyshyn felt the heat race format was a good idea so that way they can get the cars out there in packs to see how they race around each other.
“The first one was essentially a rear differential gear change, the second one we ran we put on an aero package, and then from that point we’ll slim down the horsepower,” Stefanyshyn explained. “The final package, the sixth, will be taking a significant amount of downforce off the cars. We’re testing quite a wide variety here.”
For the test, Stefanyshyn confirmed that NASCAR was using plates on the carburetors to reduce the horsepower for that package as “it’s just a quick easy way to reduce the power and get through the test variations”. Whether that practice will be used once the final decision is made, that has yet to be determined. Discussions surrounding the reduction of horsepwoer in 2015 have been discussed most of this season and some people have wondered whether that is due to the speeds picking up on a weekly basis. For example, Jeff Gordon’s qualifying lap on Friday had an average speed of 206 mph, making it probably like 215 mph entering the corner. Stefanyshyn said that NASCAR hasn’t brought up horsepower reduction for fear of higher speeds, but rather a way to possibly bring forth more passing.
“There’s no denying the fact that our speeds have picked up, and that’s matches hand-in-hand with the power as it has been developed over the years,” Stefanyshyn added. “We have changed the shape of the cars with what the manufactures are doing, and the power has continued to crept up so we think by looking at this and being open-minded we can perhaps make the best decision possible for the best racing possible.”
Throughout the test, NASCAR also tried two other new ideas – dive planes and possibly allowing drivers to adjust the track bar from within the car.
Stefanyshyn explained that the dive planes are a tool that helps the second car in line close up on the car in front of it.
“We talk about the lead car that creates a pocket of air that that follow car has to go into. So typically the dive planes clean it up so that the follow car has a more predictable balance,” he explained. “So really it’s putting more predictably in the trail car so that way he can stay close and not have to lift off the throttle and fall back.” The aerodynamics of the equation have become a growing discussion over the years as you commonly hear the words “aero loose” or “aero tight” when a driver is talking about their car, as the handling changes in traffic.
“For example, I ran about five laps by myself to make sure that I had a good balance. I felt really good through and off the corner, and had a positive front end. 10 minutes later, I got in a pack with new tires, it went green and I followed a car into turn one and I couldn’t turn getting into the corner,” Kasey Kahne explained at the test. “Everything was exact same and I couldn’t turn. The car in front of you takes the air that you need to turn off of you, so it’s about finding ways that it’s not a big loss to be behind someone. That’s a hard thing as it’s aerodynamics. If you’re behind another biker, riding 30, 20 mph, you’re not going to pedal as hard. It’s part of it and NASCAR is working hard to make it a little easier on the car that isn’t the leader.”
With regards to the track bar discussion, Stefanyshyn says it’s something their exploring as the driving having that in their hands would allow them to improve their car along the run, versus having to wait till a pit stop. However, he notes that NASCAR is matching into this sector carefully because they do not want to “distort the form of our racing” versus other forms that allow multiple adjustments to made in the car, such as IndyCar.
“I do believe that once we’ve gone to the chassis set-up, the effect won’t be as big as it would’ve been last year. There’s a technical piece of it, and then also the drivers in whether they’ll feel comfortable with it,” he added.
The test would go successfully, according to the drivers who attended, as they enjoyed some of the racing that they seen.
At the Joe Gibbs Racing announcement today, Denny Hamlin commented how much fun he had watching his fellow drivers under the “less downforce” set of rules.
“It was like the most amazing nine-car race for the first couple of laps,’’ Hamlin said. “It was crazy to see them out there with their hands full. We have star drivers in this sport for a reason because they’re the best drivers. They’re with great cars and great car owners, but I felt like we were heading in a direction where you just put anybody up front at the end of these races and any car, mediocre to a decent car, they were going to win the race. Now I believe your star drivers are going to show back up again with this package.’’
Other drivers and key players took to twitter to discuss their thoughts.
2015 aero test was a bit disappointing.. Right up until the end. We may have found something that actually moves the needle for passing
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) August 19, 2014
That was cool. Low downforce and softer tires looks promising. High straightaway speed. Slower corner speeds. #223.5 MPH.