NASCAR Changes Aerodynamics Package To Make Short Tracks And Road Courses More Watchable

Martin Truex Jr. trying to catch Chase Elliott at Watkins Glen, only to never do so.
Photo: Sean Gardner (Getty Images)

NASCAR introduced a new aerodynamics package for its top-tier Cup Series last season to mixed reviews, from both drivers and viewers. But one thing we could all agree on was how the package did at road courses and short tracks, which was really, really badly. Horribly. Every synonym for “unwatchable”-ly.

But NASCAR will try to change that this year, announcing Tuesday that it’ll take a new package to both of those track layouts this season. The new package will focus on lower downforce, which NASCAR said will “place a greater emphasis on handling and driver input” and be inspired by the approach in the 2017 and 2018 seasons—which, although not at the forefront of my mind, certainly had better road-course and short-track racing than last year, mainly because last year was so bad.

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The new rules will be implemented at nine of the 24 tracks the Cup Series visits currently—Bristol Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, and Richmond Raceway, which NASCAR considers to be short tracks, and the Sonoma Raceway, Watkins Glen International, and Charlotte Motor Speedway roval road courses.

Here are the details, via NASCAR:

Among the changes for those specific tracks:

- A significantly smaller rear spoiler, which shrinks from an 8-inch height to 2.75 inches.

- The front splitter’s overhang will now measure a quarter-inch (down from 2 inches), with approximately 2-inch wings (reduced from 10.5 inches).

- Alterations to the radiator pan, removing its vertical fencing in an effort to reduce front-end downforce. The dimensions of the pan remain the same.

NASCAR’s aerodynamics package introduced for 2019 was tailored more toward entertainment value than difficulty of racing for the drivers, but had an opposite effect on short tracks and road courses. In the Cup Series’ stop at Watkins Glen International in August, race winner Chase Elliott led nearly 90 percent of the laps. Martin Truex Jr., who finished second, said he knew he “wasn’t going to be able to pass him.” Denny Hamlin finished third, more than 11 seconds back. In October, Truex led 98.2 percent of the laps on his way to winning at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway.

Basically, the package didn’t produce the entertainment value NASCAR hoped it would at a significant portion of the tracks the Cup Series visits, many of which long held the honor of being the more entertaining stops on the schedule.

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But perhaps that’ll change this year, because NASCAR saw just how poorly the 2019 package went over at certain tracks and did something about it—even if the entertainment value at a lot of those tracks probably could have been left alone in the first place.

In the end, that realization is all we can ask.

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