Since 2015, NASCAR has looked at making the racing product better in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. NASCAR tested a lower downforce package at Kentucky and Darlington due to pleas from drivers, while NASCAR chose to use a higher drag package at Michigan and Indianapolis to try things their way.
After much consideration, NASCAR chose to go the way the drivers wanted, a lower downforce package. From 2015 to 2016, NASCAR reduced downforce from 2,700 pounds to 2,000 pounds.
In 2016, NASCAR tested an even lower downforce package at Kentucky and Michigan. After a few minor tweaks, downforce was reduced by 500 pounds.
Has this reduction of downforce made the racing in 2017 better? Let’s take a look at the first seven races of the season! The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has went to every style of racetrack from a superspeedway to a short track and from an old abrasive surface and a newly repaved surface.
The numbers are rather shocking.
The number of green flag passes at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2016 was 3,717. In 2017, that number was 2,811. That is a difference of 27.7574%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was 2210. In 2017, the number was 1,927. A difference of 3.6814%
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Phoenix Raceway was 686. In 2017, the number was 1,026. The number of green flag passes was up by 39.7196%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Auto Club Speedway was 3,346. In 2017, that number was 2,707. A difference of 21.1135%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Martinsville Speedway was 1,207. In 2017, that number was 1,725. The number of passes was up 35.3342%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Texas Motor Speedway, under the old pavement and configuration, was 2,733. In 2017, under the new pavement and configuration, the number of passes was 1,894. The difference is 36.2654%.
Early on in the season the eyeball test showed some issues within this package. Speedway Digest asked Denny Hamlin and AJ Allmendinger what they would change based on the eyeball test and numbers.
“I would just like them to stop changing stuff. It’s tough on us. I thought way at the end of last year I think we had six top 10’s in eight races and we had finally kind of gotten a feel of the aero package of what we needed and had some good race cars when it came to set-up and knowing how we wanted to set them up and they keep changing. I think that is what’s tough here,” said Allmendinger. “Right away we all jump to conclusions that ‘oh it’s not good enough we’ve got to change again.’ You’ve just got to give teams time. The bigger teams, every time you change an aero package the bigger teams are going to succeed in that because they have the wind tunnel time. You would think it would bring the field closer everybody starting over again, well it just separates the field even more because the bigger teams have the more resources to go wind tunnel test and figure out the aero package a lot quicker than other teams do. It’s five races, we all just need to calm down a little bit and give it a whole year and see if it’s working or not and then make a decision after that, but we don’t need to jump to that conclusion after five races.”
Hamlin, who is a member of the Driver’s Council, had this to say about the aero package in 2017 and what changes he would advocate for.
"Well, I think we've had a relatively small sample size. I think that we've had probably fewer cautions than what we've had in the past, and that doesn't help the passes, the green flag passes, because you have jumbling up on pit road, faster cars have a bad pit stop, they've got to come back through the field, so that part of it hampers passing a little bit. It would be interesting to revisit that probably mid to later in the season,” said Hamlin. “But I think overall, the racing itself has been very, very good. We've seen battles for the lead every single week. So overall, we've been pretty happy with it. Corner speeds are down, which is good. That's something that we wanted. There's been more tire falloff this year, which has been good. That's what we wanted. So I think we're heading in a good direction. But early in seasons, there's some teams that are on top right now that are very hot and their cars are fast, and it's going to take a while for the competition to catch up. When they catch up, fields get tighter, more passing happens."
At this point in 2016, there were talks about a lower downforce aero package being used at the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. However, in 2017, the rumor mill has been silent about potential changes in the aero package.
Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) announced today that the repave that was scheduled to take place after this year’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 would be put on hold and reevaluated after the race in 2018.
This move was made after pressure from drivers came when the series was at AMS just a few weeks ago.
“We appreciate all of the input we have received from key individuals in the NASCAR industry, as well as our customers,” said Ed Clark, Atlanta Motor Speedway president. “The overwhelming majority have urged us to hold off on paving so that we can enjoy at least one more weekend of high-speed slipping and sliding in 2018 before the new surface is installed.
Before the reevaluation occurs, AMS will provide a meticulous maintenance program to preserve the surface from further deterioration.
This move is a mistake! AMS must be repaved!
What will happen when it rains? Everyone involved would have to sit for hours on ends waiting for the track to dry. Why? Weepers!
Remember back in 2015 when it rained a few hours before the start of the race? I sure do! The rain stopped nearly three to four hours before the initial time the green flag was supposed to wave. The track was dry, but weepers caused the start of the race to be delayed. The conditions may not have been ideal for track drying, but the race was delayed.
Let’s look at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS). The IndyCar and NASCAR race weekends were encompassed with rain. IndyCar had to complete the Firestone 600 in August due to the fact that the track could not dry because of weepers, nearly two months after the race was scheduled for completion. The NASCAR Fall race at TMS started late into the evening due to rain that arose the problem of weepers.
TMS scheduled a repave and reconfiguration to help solve the weeper problem.
The racing surfaces of AMS and TMS are at the same length of time as far as the age of the pavement.
It is tiring to many to hear driver’s complain that it would take a few years for the track to get back to being multiple-grooved. With the technology we have today, track operators have the opportunity to help “age” the asphalt making it multiple-grooved. TMS used that technology to help age their new asphalt. Let’s see how that works before we decide to scratch a repave in the near future because of complaints from the drivers.
Who is to blame IF it rains in 2018 and fans have to wait for hours because the track is dry, but weepers are the main culprit that cars aren’t racing? It is on the drivers who pushed for the postponement of the repave at Atlanta.
HAMPTON, Ga.—Speeding penalties were high in this year’s Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 compared to last year’s race.
This year, there were 13 pit road speeding penalties, but only one last season. 11 of the penalties were under green flag conditions. Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth were the two drivers to receive multiple penalties for speeding.
NASCAR added additional timing lines last summer that came into play today. There were a total of 16 timing sections in play this weekend.
Many drivers had something to say about why there were numerous penalties on pit road today.
“Well we got caught speeding on pit road as I guess a lot of people did. So, we got to look at that and see what we have wrong. I was on my lights perfectly, but seems like a lot of guys got popped in the same segment,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I always try to be as -- Chip always tells me to do the obvious things right, and number one on that list is don't speed on pit road. I try and run to the cautious side of things where you've got a lot of guys that push the limits and get caught every now and then,” said Kyle Larson.
“I think I know why, but I really don't want to share why. There's something that I think a lot of guys are kind of aware of that goes on on pit road, and that's something we need to address kind of internally. But I have a pretty good reasoning, and I think why it was, but I really don't want everybody else to know,” said Chase Elliott.
The consensus amongst the garage is that this issue will be fixed as the season progresses.
HAMPTON, Ga.— Kasey Kahne scored a top-five finished at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Kahne was the highest finishing driver from the Hendrick Motorsports stable. Kahne has been considered the “sleeper” at Hendrick Motorsports over the past couple seasons. This run is Kahne’s best finish at the track since his victory back in 2014.
Kahne started the race from the 29th position, but battled throughout the race to strive for contention for the victory.
“We started really slow. I was so loose and the adjustments were perfect today. They fixed the car. Keith (Rodden, crew chief) and the engineers did a great job of making the car better; a lot better at that. But then when you’re behind you just battle and battle long runs. It was tough,” said Kahne.
Unlike recent years, Kahne was able to dig himself out of a hole.
“A lot because that is actually really hard to do. It’s hard to do when you are one of the best teams and drivers and running up front all the time and you get back there, it’s tough to dig out of. For us, the last year or two it’s been really hard and today we did it, so that was really nice to see and nice to be part of and we will just keep building from there. It feels really good to dig out of where we started. It wasn’t good at the start,” said Kahne.
Kahne finished seventh at Daytona. The season has started out on a high note for Kahne, as he hopes to continue the momentum throughout the 2017 season.
HAMPTON, Ga.— In a race dominated by Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski was able to gain the victory after a pit road mishap in the closing laps by Harvick in the Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway. This is his 22nd career victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. This is his first career win at Atlanta.
"You never know. That’s how these races are. We had a lot of adversity today there’s not doubt about that. These races aren’t easy. They’re 500 miles and a lot can happen and when you think you’ve got it they slip away. I know how it goes,” said Keselowski post-race. “This one kind of fell in our lap at the end and my team put it all together when it counted. They gave me a great Autotrader Ford Fusion and we were able to get by Kyle (Larson) there at the end. I knew that he wasn’t going to be easy to pass. His car was great and I was able to make the right moves to get by him."
The first stage saw the dominance of Harvick. Keselowski was the silent force in second through much of the first segment. The early stages saw Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray tag each other and the wall, but both drivers were able to continue. Harvick won the first stage, Keselowski was second, Chase Elliott was third, Martin Truex Jr. was fourth, and Logano rounded out the top-five. Harvick wins race of pit road.
The second stage saw the continued dominance of Harvick. Keselowski began to use the short pitting strategy towards the middle of the segment. As green flag pit stops occurred, Keselowski cycled to the lead for only 12 laps. However, with newer tires for Harvick, he quickly regained the lead to win the second stage. Elliott finished second, Ryan Newman finished third, Truex Jr. finished fourth, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five.
The third stage was one of magic for Keselowski and his team. As the third stage began to progress, weather began to change the complexion of the race. In the earlier portion of the third stage, Keselowski began to grab the handling back in his vehicle. The race began to change as drivers were getting caught for speeding on pit road. The caution flew for debris and then for a blew engine. As the leaders hit pit road, Keselowski was able to win the race off pit road. However, Keselowski had to go back down pit road to make sure all the lug nuts were tight on the tires. After the issue, Keselowski was able to put himself in prime position on the final restart. The final caution of the race flew as Austin Dillon was stopped on the racetrack due to battery issues. Keselowski started second on the restart after Larson assumed the lead. Keselowski and Larson battled for the top position. Larson would run the high side, but Keselowski used the low lane to pass Larson and grab the victory.
Larson finished second, Kenseth finished third, Kasey Kahne finished fourth, and Elliott rounded out the top-five.
The race was slowed six times for 32 laps. There were nine different lead changes among five different drivers.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Kobalt Tools 400. The race will be broadcasted on Performance Racing Network and FOX beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST.