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.
LAS VEGAS, N.v.— When it rains, it usually pours for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).This was the case this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Kobalt 400.
In the first two races of the season at Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, SHR showed that their switch to Ford was not a hinderance as they showed the upper hand by winning the Daytona 500 and dominating the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
The organization, as a whole, seemed to struggle throughout the weekend, especially during the race.
Kevin Harvick’s day was the first to end of the SHR stable. Harvick only completed 68 circuits. Harvick cut a tire and made hard contact with the outside wall on the front stretch.
“It started vibrating about four or five laps there before it blew out, and I was just trying to ride it to the end of the stage there. Obviously, it didn’t make it. The worst part was the medical response,” said Harvick after the accident. “It took them forever to get to the car. All in all, our Mobil 1 Annual Protection Ford was running good. We were just too loose right there. It’s not like we were even tight, so it either just cut the tire, or came apart or melted the bead.”
Harvick finished in the 39th position, only scoring one point to his championship tptal and no playoff points. Harvick currently sits eighth in points 41 points away from the points leader, Brad Keselowski.
Danica Patrick has a so-so day in Las Vegas. The team was forced to change the gearbox on Saturday, resulting in the team starting from the rear of the field on Sunday. In the opening stage of the race, Patrick was having trouble on entry and exit in the corners. She finished 29th in the first stage. In the second stage, Patrick climbed into the top-20 before pit stops sat her back. She finished 28th in the second stage. In the third stage, the day went from so-so to worse for Patrick. Patrick was two laps down. She pitted under the green flag cycling her out of the top-30. She worked her way into the top-30 before she suffered mechanical woes and went to the garage.
“It was another day where my Aspen Dental Ford team worked hard to get me better throughout the race. There late in the race, we finally got the car to a place where I think we could have got a little more racy with it, especially if we would have caught some breaks, but then it just flattened out. I just rode around the top in case something happened. Unfortunately, it did and having a teammate behind me was not ideal for the timing of it. We’ll just move on to Phoenix and see if we can keep improving,” said Patrick.
Patrick finished 36th at Las Vegas, scoring only one point. She currently sits 30th in the points standing, 95 points behind Keselowski.
Kurt Busch was the third driver from the SHR stable to experience trouble. Busch started the opening stage in the 17th position, but worked his way into the top-10. However, he was battling a loose handling car that resulted in him finishing 12th in this stage. The second stage of the Kobalt 400 is where Busch began to see problems. Busch began to experience battery issues that resulted in everything except the gear fan to be turned off. The team told Busch to stay out until the second battery died. Busch would use the first battery to work his way back to pit road on lap 201. Busch lost four laps on pit road as the team changed the batteries resulting in a 30th place finish.
“We went through a lot today. Obviously it wasn’t the day we were hoping to have with our Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion,” Busch stated. “We didn’t have the long-run speed or the balance, and we had an electrical issue that forced us to change batteries on pit road. We kept battling, we didn’t give up. I hoped to have a better run here in front of the hometown fans.”
Busch currently sits seventh in the points standings only 39 points away from Keselowski.
Clint Bowyer had the best day out of the SHR stable in Las Vegas. Bowyer was running strong in the first stage until he went down pit road under the lap 19 caution period. Bowyer lost several spots on the pit lane due to a slower car. Bowyer finished 19th in the first stage. In the second stage, Bowyer battled loose conditions, but battled to finish 14th. In the third stage, Bowyer found himself running the same lap-times as drivers in the top-six. Bowyer ended up finishing the race running in the 10th position.
“It was a struggle. To be truthful, we weren’t the best all weekend, but we just kept digging. Buga (Mike Bugarewicz) didn’t give up on the box and kept adjusting on it and got me pretty good, the best we’d been right there at the end. It’s a top-10 and gives us some momentum. It’s our third race together and we got a top-10, so we’ve got to keep digging,” said Bowyer.
Bowyer currently sits 12th in the points standings, 59 points back from Keselowski.
Despite the struggles over the weekend at Las Vegas, SHR hopes to rebound and recover at Phoenix International Raceway in the Camping World 500, the second race of NASCAR’s “West Coast Swing”.
LAS VEGAS, N.v.— Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. had an interesting day on Saturday in the Boyd Gaming 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Wallace Jr. battled flu-like symptoms throughout the weekend, but continued to persevere through the race.
If it wasn’t for pre-race interviews, fans would have been unable to tell that the No. 6 Leidos Ford driver was battling those symptoms.
Wallace Jr. started from the 16th position, but quickly charged towards the front.
Wallace Jr. was battling a free handling car that hit the wall a couple of times, but that did not stop the Ford Mustang from running in the top-10. Wallace Jr. was able to gain two championship points in the opening stage of the Boyd Gaming 300.
After making a pit stop during the stage “break”, Wallace Jr. maintained a run in the top-10. The caution flew in the closing laps of the second stage, which shuffled the running order, but Wallace Jr. remained in the top-10 to earn one championship point by finishing in the 10th position in the second stage.
After the pit-stops that saw numerous drivers stay out for better track position and save tires for later in the race. Wallace Jr. was shuffled back to 17th, but rebounded quickly marching his way into the top-10 in just eight laps ultimately reaching the fourth position before a cycle of green flag pit stops. Wallace Jr. cycled back to the fifth position after all the drivers pitted.
On the second to last restart, Wallace Jr. was shuffled back to eighth, but utilized a late race restart to take the field three-wide and score a sixth place finish.
This was Wallace Jr.’s second top-six finish in a row.
These early races for Wallace Jr. are crucial for him as he is battling the fight to find sponsorship to run the full NASCAR Xfinity Series season in 2017. Despite the lack of sponsorship for 2017, Wallace Jr. remains optimistic that he will find sponsorship beyond the six races he has with Leidos, who upped their sponsorship this season.
Wallace Jr. currently sits fifth in the points standings only 29 points away from points leader, Elliott Sadler.
LAS VEGAS, Nv.— After many years of trying, it became official today that Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) would receive a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS), NASCAR Xfinity (NXS), and Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) date in 2018.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) approved unanimously Wednesday afternoon. The deal is for seven-years at $2.5 million a year.
The date is currently set to fall the third or fourth weekend of September, but flexibilty is available.
In attendance at the announcement included Jamie Little, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Spencer Gallagher, Brendan Gaughan, and Noah Gragson. All are natives of the Las Vegas area.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Speedway Motorsports and Las Vegas Motor Speedway to create a NASCAR spectacle worthy of the greatest racing in the world and the Entertainment Capital of the World,” said Speedway Motorsports, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Marcus Smith.“It’s taken a tremendous amount of work to make this happen, and we are very thankful to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and NASCAR for their support in our endeavor to create a triple-header NASCAR weekend in such a world-class destination.”
“Over the years, Las Vegas has become a major sports city as a popular destination for a variety of championship and professional sports events, and today we are proud to add a second NASCAR Cup race to that roster. Las Vegas, NASCAR and Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) have developed a strong and successful partnership, and we are certain this second race will prove to be another great success,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Who loses a date? Speedway Motorsports Inc. will remove the September MENCS and NCWTS date from New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) and the NXS standalone date from Kentucky Speedway (KYS). These transition of dates will provide LVMS two triple-header weekends on the NASCAR circuit, the first of its kinds.
NASCAR has confirmed that tracks have the ability to request a transfer of date. The sanctioning body would not further comment on the specifics of any agreements within the sanctioning agreement, but noted they’re all currently admidst five-year agreements.
This announcement comes at the heels of the sports scene boom in the Las Vegas area as the National Hockey League (NHL) is expanding into the market and with interest from the National Football League (NFL) about expanding to the area.