NASCAR Tests Potential Rule Changes
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 18, 2014 | 7:36 A.M. EST
Denny Hamlin, shown at a NASCAR test last year at Charlotte, is among the drivers taking part in today's test at Michigan International Speedway to gague possible rule changes. (Photo: Getty Images)
Ten drivers are scheduled participate in a NASCAR Sprint Cup test today at Michigan International Speedway to gauge potential rule changes for next season.
The goal is to find ways to reduce the impact of aero push - where a trailing car loses ground, in part, because of aerodynamic forces. The test is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. ET and end after 6 p.m. ET.
Scheduled to test are: Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Danica Patrick, Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and either Clint Bowyer or Brian Vickers for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR vice president of innovation and racing development, will oversee the test. He said no other follow-up test is scheduled.
Stefanyshyn said today’s plan is to run 30-lap mock races, which will be divided into two 15-lap segments. One segment will begin with cars starting single-file and the other will feature double-file starts.
Among the changes to be tested is allowing drivers to adjust the track bar inside the car instead of relying on the pit crew to do it during a stop.
“I think that anything we’re able to adjust inside the car ... I think that’s important,’’ Greg Biffle said. “That can improve the safety, but at the same time ... being able to adjust the track bar can clearly make it more competitive.
“You can adjust over the tire run, over the fuel run. What we’ve got to be careful of is people fudging the rules and getting it to do other things. If it’s easy to police, I like it.”
Michigan winner Jeff Gordon is intrigued about being able to adjust the track bar, especially in traffic.
“The balance changes so much that we’re trying to figure out how we can adjust that balance when we get behind cars and then to help passing and make the races more exciting and more competitive than they already are,’’ he said. “And that’s a step toward that. So, that would be great.
“I’d love to know how much adjustment you’re going to get. I always go back to adjustments that I used to have in open-wheel cars, and I used to dial myself right out of being competitive. So, I want to make sure they don’t allow me to have too much adjustment or if they do, I’m going to make sure the team tells me how far I can go with it.”
Other areas that NASCAR will focus on in this test include using dive planes (aerodynamic plates) on both sides under the front bumper to help balance the car with a bigger spoiler, a 9-inch spoiler to increase drag and a lower rear differential gear to reduce acceleration.
Such changes have been studied on computers and tested in a wind tunnel. Now, comes the chance to test with multiple cars on the track.
“We have hunches, we have data we’ve looked at from five different ways,’’ Stefanyshyn said. “We think we’re on the right track.’’
NASCAR also will test at three different power levels - the current 850 horsepower, 800 horsepower and 750 horsepower.
NASCAR will simulate those reductions, but Stefanyshyn said how NASCAR would get to those levels via a rule change has not been determined.
“We have so much power that any little advantage or disadvantage is amplified quickly and significantly,’’ he said.
Stefanyshyn also said that series officials would spend the latter portion of the test working on low downforce ideas that some drivers have proposed. The cars would have about 30 percent less downforce. To handle the changes, Goodyear has brought a higher grip tire for that part of the test.