The 2017 NASCAR Media Tour, hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway is a compressed version compared to the week long versions of the past. So that means we get our info Shotgun Style and so do you.
Downforce and less spoiler height – After a reduction of one inch from 2015 to 2016, another cut this year will drop the spoiler height from 2-1/2 inches tall to 2.35 inches tall. Not a big jump, but this is NASCAR where every tenth of an inch matters. Why does NASCAR seem to do this so often? Because teams usually get back pretty quick. David Ragan explained it very well, “They’re working in the windtunnel every single day. These teams have shifts at the two windtunnels here in North Carolina 24 hours a day, probably six or seven days a week. A lot of times you hear of a team that their shift is midnight to 7 a.m. These windtunnels are just running all day long. You’ve got all the manufacturers, all the race teams that are in there going through different scenarios. They’ve even got good simulation from a computer standpoint where they can change measurements and body builds very little, so they can work through a lot of changes before they even get to the windtunnel and have a lot more efficient time at the windtunnel. So throughout the year they end up gaining back what is lost at a rule change, so I think that’s why NASCAR continues to make some small minor adjustments because by October-November we’re already back to the downforce and sideforce numbers that were taken away in January or December of the previous year. They’re just working hard. They’re so smart today and they’re working within the rules and the tolerances and they’re very, very smart to get back. NASCAR has got a tough job on their hand to keep trimming that downforce number and I think they’ve done a good job, but the teams it’s there job to find it back and they’ll find it back. Whoever finds it back the quickest will have a competitive edge for a while.”
So where on those ultra sophisticated bodies do they get it back? Not on the body you see. NASCAR uses lasers to measure all the body parts. So that leaves the underside of the car to reduce drag and create downforce. Imagine all the components that make up a chassis. We’re taking lower control arms, tailpipes, frame sections, the box around the gas tank and even the underside of the transmission. Smoothing the underside reduces drag underneath and downforce as the drag lessons. If you’ve ever seen the tube front control arms of an Indy car, they are wing shaped instead of just round. Not only are they more aerodynamic cutting through the air, they help create downforce. Just changing the shape can do that.
But not all drivers think more is better. Paul Menard said, “Since 2014, when we debut this new car, we’ve taken downforce away every year. This is a big change for us for aero this year, and I think NASCAR is going to continue to tweak it. We want to put more downforce on next year if we see this isn’t the way to go. NASCAR isn’t afraid of making changes as we’ve all seen with the format and we’ve seen with the cars the past few years, and you have to stay up with current events and what makes for a good package on the racetrack. Personally, I’m a proponent for less downforce, maybe stickier tires that fall off. I think every driver is pretty much on board with that. The key is the tire combination with this low-downforce package is still have those big numbers on pole day and still see 190 mph qualifying speeds, but race at 160 to 170 mph. That would slow things down, make aero a little less important, and make for better racing.”
Have a laugh on Ryan Blaney. – When Blaney made one his Rookie meetings with the Penske team, he learned a lesson. Unfortunately, it was the hard way. Says Blaney, “The one thing you don’t want to be is late to a Penske breakfast. You’ve got everybody there. Mr. Penske is there and all the brass and I walk in late. I don’t know what happened. I don’t think I overslept. I might have overslept, but I got there and there was a standing ovation. That was like in 2012 or 2013, right when I got there, and you talk about wanting to walk out of the room. I started sweating bullets and was just as nervous as can be, and then you’ve got to go up and give a speech right after that. That was a rough day for sure, so I make sure I’m one of the earliest to the Penske breakfast.”
More on NASCAR’s Stages – No drivers voiced any kind of negative comments about the new format. In fact, they sound like they’ve already figured out their plan of attack. Joey Logano explained, “It plays to the person’s advantage who takes the opportunity to get ahead. There is a lot of opportunity when there is change. Brad says that is the best. When there is change like this the first person who figures it out is going to have a huge advantage. Right now, the way the new format is, if you can get some bonus points at the beginning of the year it will help you get all the way to Homestead and the Championship 4. Figuring it out early is key. For me, I have one gear and it is wide-open. It doesn’t really change the way I race as a driver but as a team and how Todd will call these races is obviously going to be different. That is going to be interesting to see how that evolves throughout all the races and the season and what everyone is trying to do. That will be very interesting. It will affect some drivers as well where they will be racing with more intensity and taking more risks and I think that all makes a better race, in my opinion.”
Brad Keselowski was part of the driver’s council that helped create the package. He said, “What stood out to me is when people don’t like something it’s like 100 percent negative feedback, but when the majority likes it, and the minority dislikes it, it’s about 50 percent, so what stood out to me is the feedback has been about 50 percent, which tells me the majority likes it and is gonna give it a shot. That’s extremely encouraging to me. Of course, there is always a resistance to change. I think a lot of people want to see it in action, and that’s great. The people that want to see it in action, I am 100 percent convinced they’re gonna like what they see and it’s gonna work out well. The people that are willing to give it a shot, I think are gonna fall back in love with NASCAR.”
Ryan Newman sees a learning curve but more action down the road. Says Newman, “I think that the strategy of the races, the mixture of importance of a bonus point for a stage win in reference to how you race each stage and the last stage, which ultimately is still the most important points-wise, is unique and going to be fun to follow. It is going to be a challenge to learn the system, but I don’t think it’s a complex system. With the right technology, it can be easily adaptable to the fans, which to me is extremely important. And I think the thing we’ll talk about with this new structure will be the one point that goes into the Chase per stage and the still bonus structure that still goes into the Chase and is now cumulative throughout the Chase because we’re all racing for wins but the big trophy is always going to be that championship.”