Drivers Say Work Remains After Test
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on December 13, 2013 | 12:57 P.M. EST
Matt Kenseth said he likes that NASCAR is looking at ways to enhance the racing but adds that "the product was already really good." (Photo: Getty Images)
While Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle applauded NASCAR’s approach to this week’s test at Charlotte Motor Speedway, both raised questions about some of the changes officials tried.
Kenseth and Biffle shared their thoughts Friday morning on "The Morning Drive" on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Thirty teams took part in Wednesday’s test to help set the rules for next season. Series officials tried various aerodynamic configurations and had teams run mock races of 30 laps or less.
Among the changes that were standard for each mock race: No ride height requirement, splitters with a square leading edge and side skirts at a four-inch minimum ground clearance on both sides.
NASCAR also adjusted the rear spoiler, starting it at nine inches tall for some mock races before decreasing it to 8.375 inches and then to 7.75 inches at the end of the session. Series officials had teams run with a roof strip part of the time. Teams also ran a couple of mock races with a tapered spacer, which was intended to reduce horsepower by about 100, down to 750.
"It proved out in the test, but adding downforce made it more difficult to catch the guy in front of you because it disturbs more air," Biffle said. "A great analogy is a boat. The bigger the boat, the bigger the wake. You take a little raft with a 10-horsepower outboard (motor), he doesn’t make a big wake. You take a 70-foot (boat), it makes a huge wake. The bigger the wake, the harder it is for the guy behind to maintain even though that guy has more downforce. He doesn’t have the air to make the downforce work."
Biffle competed in three of the five mock races before he experienced engine issues and pulled into the garage. In the second race, he started sixth and moved to fifth before the finish. In the third race, he started third and stayed in the top five before his engine issues.
Kenseth did not run at the front in any of the races. He said his car was "off" throughout the day but still gained a perspective on the test.
"The closer the cars are, the same speed, the tighter all the rules are ... the harder it is to pass," Kenseth said. "(NASCAR is) always trying to look for better racing. Everybody has a different opinion of what good racing is. To me, the Gen-6 car was a huge success and the racing was really, really good last year. It's always good to try to make things better and go work on that, but I think the product was already really good and you want to be careful not to make it worse."
Kenseth did run in the mock races with the tapered spacer and admits that was an adjustment for him.
"I like to go fast," he said. "I like to have a lot of horsepower. I like to have to slow up for the corners. I've always been a proponent of more power, less downforce, softer tires. In my view of what is better racing, I’m a traditionalist. I like the fastest car to win the race.
"If a guy has a bad pit stop, speeds on pit road or makes a mistake and you still have the fastest car, I like that guy to have the ability to get all the way to the front, pass everybody in front of him and go win the race. That’s what racing is all about.
"If it so happens to be a guy that sits on the pole, has the best pit stops, best strategy and leads every lap, I’m OK with that, too, because he deserved to win."
Biffle also said on "The Morning Drive" that he would like tires to wear more but knows there’s a balance between speed and safety.
"The drivers say, 'Take more and more spoiler off, and give us a softer tire to make up for the grip,' " Biffle said. "The driver, if he runs the car hard and really punishes the tires, then you’re going to start paying the price. Now, you’re back to how the racing used to be.
"The more we soften that tire, the faster the car goes, then we create high right-front tire temps and stand a chance of blowing the tire out and hurting somebody. It’s a very delicate line to walk."