NASCAR tested out a couple of different rules packages for their cars this year, and to many, there was a clear winner that produced fun racing to watch while rewarding driver skill. NASCAR just did everybody a solid and released a new low-downforce base rules package for 2016, which should be an utter riot.
Next year, per NASCAR’s announcement on the base rules package, rear splitters are reduced from 6 inches to 3.5 inches, the front leading splitter edge is reduced from 2 inches to a tiny quarter of an inch, and the radiator pan width was reduced from 38 inches to 33 inches.
The radiator pan as tested at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington Raceway this year was 28”, but otherwise, the specifications are very similar to that much praised low-downforce package.
Why is low downforce a good change for NASCAR? Drivers say that it gives them more control of the car. They spend less time on the throttle and have to slow down more for corners. Being able to hold the pedal down all the way around the track won’t help you. Knowing when to lift off, brake or turn will.
Plus, low downforce means that there’s less aerodynamic interference standing between a driver and a pass. Part of the joy of NASCAR is watching them dice it up and make a million passes. This should encourage that, and discourage drivers from forming drafting conga lines around the track to maximize their speed.
Each track on the NASCAR calendar will have different drivetrain configurations and tire combinations to complement the track. Included in the 2016 base rules package are adjusted rear gear ratios that maintain a 9,000 RPM maximum engine speed, and a 1.38 third gear ratio for tracks shorter than 1.25 miles.
NASCAR says that tire supplier Goodyear will also be developing a soft tire somewhat like the one tested at Darlington for use in 2016 as well. This tire will lose its grip after a while, forcing drivers to manage the amount of slipping and sliding they’ll inevitably do with less downforce sucking their cars to the ground.
NASCAR’s two superspeedways — Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway — are the only two tracks that won’t have this low-downforce base configuration next year. Those tracks will see the cars gain about 10 horsepower through the use of engine roller lifters in place of today’s solid lifters. As a result, the restrictor plates will also shrink from 29/32 inches down to 57/64 inches.
What else is coming in 2016? Mandatory digital dashboards, enhanced safety belts, a new fire suppression activation system, and a right-side double NACA duct to cool drivers when a side window is in use.
Overall, it’s good to see NASCAR side with the masses. The 2016 season should be well worth tuning in for.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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