NASCAR unveiling new aero package at Phoenix Raceway

NASCAR had considered waiting for new parts to be manufactured and giving teams time to understand those parts as it looked to improve racing on short tracks and road courses this year.

The teams had a different idea: remove pieces and run.

So NASCAR will introduce a new aerodynamic package for short tracks and road courses this weekend at the 1-mile Phoenix Raceway.

“I love the fact that they’ve been aggressive with it and trying to fix it,” said former Cup champion Kevin Harvick, who is seeking his 20th consecutive top-10 finish at Phoenix. “That’s part of the partnership between NASCAR and the drivers and believing in each other.

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“They’re going to do something, and they believe what we’re saying. As long as everyone works together and continues down this path, the race can get better.”

The new package reduces the rear spoiler from four inches to two inches. The engine bumps and select rear diffuser panels have been removed (think thin, flat pieces that allow for more downforce by controlling how air moves underneath the car).

The result should be reduced downforce, making the cars harder to handle with less grip, meaning drivers will have to work harder on the throttle and there will be more unevenness in how the cars handle (because the a team’s decisions about how to install suspension parts). , tire pressure, etc. will make a bigger difference), which should result in more passes.

NASCAR estimates the changes will reduce downforce by 30%.

NASCAR ran a test with six drivers (three Chevrolet drivers, two Fords and one Toyota) in January at Phoenix, and this setup was tested for a couple of hours near the end of the test. NASCAR then took one car from each manufacturer into the wind tunnel to ensure that no one manufacturer had a significant advantage.

“I’m very encouraged by what I saw in the test,” he said Brad Keselowski, one of the drivers he tested. “It should make the race a little better than it has been on short tracks and potentially on road courses.”

Test the short haul package

Test the short haul package

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Erik Jones and Ross Chastain were the Chevy drivers who tested the short track package at Phoenix. The drivers discussed the changes and did 50 minutes of practice in Phoenix.

Drivers don’t really know what difference this will make. The best way to describe their expectations is probably cautiously optimistic for some small improvement.

“It’s really hard to say until you put all the cars on the track and see how it runs,” Harvick said. “I don’t think it’s as effective as everyone expected, but when you get into these races, it can be so bad that it’s cool and crazy and all over the place.”

But at least it’s something. Short tracks and road courses have typically provided some of the most dramatic moments and best racing in recent years. With the introduction of the Next Gen car last season, these races did not live up to their previous events.

The one thing NASCAR didn’t do is increase the horsepower. This would require extensive research and development (and cost) by engine builders because they have parts designed to run two events at 670 horsepower. An increase would likely require changes in these parts.

NASCAR also knows that teams work on each package in the wind tunnel and do extensive simulations. In an attempt to limit the work, NASCAR chose to combine this aerodynamic package with the additions already decided for most short tracks and road courses to be able to run in wet conditions. These additions include a windshield wiper, windshield defogger, flaps behind the tires and taillights.

As Bristol (0.533 mile oval) and Dover (1 mile) are not part of the wet weather package, they are also not included in this new aero package. Racing at these tracks will be with the package for ovals 1.25 miles and larger.

So the package used in Phoenix will run on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, Chicago Street Course, Circuit of the Americas, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Martinsville, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix, Richmond, Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

What the drivers learn this weekend could help at some of the other ovals, but teams often focus heavily on Phoenix as they look to learn as much as they can from the championship race in November.

“The championship race is so far away that things are going to move forward and I really don’t have anything else on my mind other than this week,” Harvick said.

Getting ready for Phoenix

Getting ready for Phoenix

Toyota drivers Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin share their thoughts on having 50 minutes of practice to prepare for Phoenix with the downforce package.

Teams will have 50 minutes of practice on Friday in Phoenix and then spend the night deciding on car settings before passing scrutineering on Saturday. On a typical race weekend, they go through technical inspection before taking to the track and can only make minimal adjustments during a 20-minute practice session before qualifying. After qualifying, the cars are impounded for the race.

For many who couldn’t take the test, they welcome the 50-minute practice.

“Team simulations are so good these days and every manufacturer had cars, Chevy with the most cars in the test. [that] they should have no problem getting tuned,” said Toyota driver and 23XI team co-owner Denny Hamlin.

“We only had one Toyota. At the time it seemed like the results were pretty good for us. I think 50 minutes is good. We will understand, especially after the first race.”

And there are some drivers who would be fine with just the normal 20 minutes of practice before qualifying.

“We don’t need any practice,” said 23XI driver Tyler Reddick. “Just send us out there and let us run.

“You look back at how we handled COVID, just showing up and racing. Some of our best races were those… A normal practice time is a long time.”

However, what the extra practice session does is allow teams to make changes.

“On a typical weekend, the cars are seized – your springs, dampers, geometry and settings are pretty much set, but on Friday night after practice we can change the springs and suspension stuff to really maximize everything that we can for saturday”. said Michael McDowell, who drives for both Front Row Motorsports cars.

“I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the new package and finding out what it will take to make this work.”

Because NASCAR uses single-source vendors for most of the car’s parts and pieces, Harvick said creating a car with enough adjustability to have turnouts and attendees during a race is a challenge.

“With this car, it’s difficult, you’re going to have to change it a lot,” he said. “The window is much smaller than it was before, and everyone has the same bits and pieces, so everything will migrate closer together.”

Harvick explains Phoenix’s approach

Harvick explains Phoenix's approach

Kevin Harvick says his focus on the short track pack is Phoenix this weekend and not the potential of what could be good for the championship race in November.

What to watch out for

Will this be Ryan Blaney’s weekend?

Blaney won a stage in each of the Phoenix races last year and could have possibly challenged his Penske teammate Joey Logano for the championship race win had he wanted to risk a move. high risk there at the end.

Christopher Bell could also be strong. He just needs to avoid the pit-road problems he had in both races last year.

And then there’s Ross Chastain. He was among the leaders in both races, finishing second in the spring and third in the fall. The wilder of these two finishes? He did not lead a lap in either.

Thinking out loud

NASCAR made the right decision when it didn’t issue the caution at the end of the Cup race in Las Vegas.

Yes, AJ Allmendinger had taken a hard hit and was spinning. How is it different than at Daytona when it looks like NASCAR had a quick trigger?

He was further back in the field than where the wreck happened at Daytona, which also involved more cars. And he turned to the apron, not the wall with oncoming traffic.

These are two big elements when considering whether to issue the warning. And the fact that he was able to continue driving the car proved that NASCAR made the right call.

Weekly Power Rankings

They said it

“Josh [Berry] He was impressive this weekend in difficult circumstances, and we hope he will drive the oval tracks until the Chase can return.” —Rick Hendrick, announcing that Josh Berry will drive the ovals (and Jordan Taylor will run the COTA road race) in the #9 car while Chase Elliott is recovering from a broken leg

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newscast with Bob Pockrass.

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