NASCAR picks driver-preferred low-downforce package for 2016
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) NASCAR's ever-changing plans to design a rules package that improves the racing has finally landed on the configuration the drivers desperately wanted.
NASCAR said Wednesday it will use a base package that features a lower-downforce configuration in 2016. The package was used this summer at Darlington and Kentucky and received rave reviews from the competitors.
''The core goal for us continues to remain the same, and that's deliver the best and safest racing possible for the fans,'' said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. ''It's a goal that the entire industry shares, and it's a great thing in terms of working together with the industry.''
NASCAR said before the start of the season it had hoped to have a rules package determined early in the year that could be tested at the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. The sanctioning body then backed away from that plan and indicated the 2016 rules would likely be very similar to this year's package.
The idea to stay the course was meant to be a money-saver for team owners, who wouldn't have to spend on development for new rules.
But drivers were vocal in their disdain for the 2015 rules because of a difficulty to pass on the track. They began to push publicly for a package that decreased downforce and made the cars more difficult to drive; that forces the drivers to up their game, leading to more completive racing.
NASCAR met with a driver council over the summer and came up with two additional packages: The low-downforce package used at Kentucky and Darlington, and a high-drag package that was raced at Indianapolis and Michigan.
Drivers and fans overwhelmingly supported the low-downforce package, but NASCAR needed another six weeks to decide it was the route to take.
''Through a lot of dialogue that went on with the industry, we took a pause and we were having a number of different ownership conversations, a number of conversations with the drivers and Goodyear, and decided that we wanted to take a step back and really look at what was the best route to go to get to the rules package that we got to for 2016,'' O'Donnell said. ''Yes, it took longer, but what you're seeing is an industry that's really aligned in the direction we're headed in for 2016.''
The 2016 package will feature a 3.5-inch spoiler, a 0.25-inch front leading splitter edge and a 33-inch-wide radiator pan. It's identical to the package used in the August race at Darlington. The package used at Kentucky in July had a 25-inch radiator pan.
The base package will permit track-specific tire combinations and drive train configurations. NASCAR wanted that flexibility to produce the best racing for various track lengths and layouts.
BUSCH-KANSAS: Among the five tracks where Kyle Busch has never won a Sprint Cup race is Kansas Speedway, a place that has caused him fits over his career.
Busch has 15 career starts at Kansas and just one top-five finish - last year, when he worried Kansas would be his downfall in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Instead, he pulled out a strong finish but was wrecked the next week at Talladega to be eliminated from the Chase.
He goes to Kansas for this Sunday's race in need of a run like last year. He's in the bottom four of the Chase standings after a long day Sunday at Charlotte.
Statistics are not in Busch's favor: He's got just three top-10 finishes at Kansas and has finished on the lead lap just eight times. Busch failed to finish in four of his races at Kansas.
Busch did not race at Kansas during the spring while he was recovering from a broken leg and broken foot, and replacement driver Erik Jones wrecked.
''I'm not sure what it is, but Jones was doing a fabulous job there in the spring. He was really fast and looked good and then got caught up in a crash in the late going,'' Busch said. ''I'm looking forward to getting back, especially with the speed that Erik Jones had with the limited experience he has in a Cup car.''
Busch knows he has to perform Sunday to keep his bid to win his first Cup title intact. He can't risk needing to win at Talladega next week to stave off elimination in the Chase.
''Sometimes it's really cool the way the (Chase is) and sometimes it's very frustrating,'' he said. ''As a team and as a driver, and as a competitor within it, it's all over the board and your emotions are all over the board. As a fan of the sport, if you were on the outside looking in, I think it's great.''
BURTON-DEBUT: Harrison Burton, son of former Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Burton, will take the next step in his young career when he makes his debut this weekend in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
The 15-year-old will race Saturday at All American Speedway in Roseville, California. DEX Imaging, which has sponsored him in Super Late Models, will also sponsor his K&N race.
''I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish so far. They have been such an incredible supporter of our team and I'm looking forward to taking this next step together,'' Harrison said.
Burton is a three-time USAC Quarter Midget National Champion.