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Gluck: Don't judge new aero package off Atlanta race

348 Views 4 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  team3and8

You’re going to hear a lot about NASCAR’s new aerodynamic rules package this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and the talk will be followed by a rush to judgment on whether the lower downforce elements on the cars improved the racing.
Did it allow for more passing opportunities? Did it put the racing back into the drivers’ hands? Was it a more entertaining 500 miles than before?
Those are questions that will be asked during -- and after -- Sunday's race.
Try to resist jumping to any conclusions – good or bad – after the package’s 2016 debut. No matter how the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET, Fox) turns out, it’ll be too early to judge.
Unlike the two tryout races for the rules package last year – at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington Raceway – this one stands on its own.
Yes, it’s a 1.5-mile track – which makes it easy to lump in with the rest of the intermediate-length venues. But the Atlanta surface (last repaved in 1997) is so worn and abrasive on tires, there’s really nothing that compares. So whether it’s a spectacular race or a single-file parade, that doesn’t mean the product will look the same the next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway or the week after that at Phoenix International Raceway.

Over the last two seasons, the cars had become much easier to drive, and competitors felt the package didn’t really show off their talent. When a driver in clearly superior equipment has a great deal of difficulty passing a backmarker car, that’s a problem. It means clean air and track position decides the race, which isn’t very enjoyable to watch.
After test runs at Kentucky (perhaps the best race of 2015, won by Kyle Busch) and Darlington (where Carl Edwards prevailed), the expectations for the revamped package are sky high.
NASCAR fans want to see the drivers race. They want to see passes and lead changes and better competition. The drivers want the same thing, and now they'll have a better opportunity. But they had to fight to reach this point.
As recently as last summer, NASCAR was opposed to going in the lower downforce direction. Officials believed the best racing would be through a high drag package – basically the opposite of what the drivers wanted.
But Kentucky and Darlington were such good races (while the high drag experiments at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway flopped) that it made lower downforce the obvious winner.
It should be emphasized, however, that this package should be termed “lower” downforce – not “low.” It was a step in the right direction for this season, but drivers and crew chiefs expect teams to make enough gains in the cars’ handling that it could wipe out the progress by season’s end.
“We just need to keep taking downforce away,” said Edwards, the most outspoken driver on low downforce matters. “… These teams, we will innovate. No matter what the rules are, we’re going to get the absolute most downforce and sideforce we can and therefore just if NASCAR stays ahead of that curve, it will be better.”
So regardless of how Atlanta or any other race turns out, NASCAR needs to keep moving in the lower downforce direction in the years to come. Ultimately, it might turn out the racing doesn’t look all that different from years past at intermediate tracks – but that doesn’t mean lower downforce should be viewed as a failure.
Taking downforce off the cars is the right direction. Keep going.

Gluck: Don't judge new aero package off Atlanta race
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NASCAR Debuts Lower Downforce Aero Package At Atlanta

This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will debut its much-anticipated lower downforce 2016 aerodynamics package. The package is similar to the ones used at Kentucky and Darlington last year. Lowering the downforce on a car makes it harder to drive, which puts more emphasis on driver skill and increases the potential for more passing.
Changes to the car for this season's aero package include reductions to:

  • Spoiler - 2015: 6" tall, 2016: 3.5" tall
    • Air coming over the top of the car hits the spoiler, which pushes the back of the car down. A shorter spoiler creates less downforce than a taller spoiler.
  • Splitter - 2015: 2" overhang, 2016: .25" overhang
    • The splitter "splits" air and forces it to accelerate under the car, creating a high-pressure zone above the splitter and a low-pressure zone underneath that sucks the car down. Shortening the splitter reduces downforce.
  • Radiator Pan - 2015: 38" wide, 2016: 33" wide
    • The radiator pan is a flat panel that extends behind the splitter and under the car, deflecting air to create more downforce. A narrower panel is less effective in deflecting air, which slows airflow and creates less downforce.
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I sure hope this creates the quality we all want.
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