Following extensive research and the Charlotte Motor Speedway test, NASCAR officials decided on the 2014 rule package and have delivered it to the race teams.
“I’m very proud of our team at NASCAR and all of the race teams and OEMs and everybody that participated. It was a highly collaborative exercise,” NASCAR’s VP of Innovation and Racing Development, Gene Stefanyshyn, said. “We planned it very well. We made sure everybody was prepared. I think we ran a disciplined process. I think it kind of sets the stage in regard to how we want to continue doing our work going forward. So I think we heard a lot of good comments from most of the teams on the way the whole process was run. I felt very good about it.
“We planned it well, and there is not only the planning of it, but the collection of some very, very important, important data was also a key element of it, and we managed to get some of that data, and that provides us better insight.”
The first change is that teams will statically set the race car ride height and eliminate the pre- and post-race front high rules and inspection. In the past, teams were using light springs in the front to make sure that the car made it through inspection. With that eliminated, it opens the game up more for teams.
“Now we will be having heavier springs in the front end which will enable the teams to essentially be not running on the bump stops or having the whole vehicle totally loaded on the suspension system,” Stefanyshyn said. “We’ll have some dampening between the mass of the body and the suspension which will give them more mechanical grip.”
In return, this should make the handling of the car more predictable.
“The drivers feel very good about the car,” Stefanyshyn added. “But they do indicate that sometimes when they get into heavy traffic, the car does get a bit unpredictable and less stable. So we’re hoping that this will, in fact, provide the drivers with more confidence in these type of very, let’s say, congested environments to drive harder and be willing to pass.”
In past inspection processes, NASCAR would put the car on the laser, or on blocks, to make sure the car is at it’s set height – six inches up in the front, eight inches in the rear. Once at this position, NASCAR would measure key dimensions of the racecar such as camber, how much it tracks, wheel-base, etc.
“This is how we make sure that the cars are all equal and will be competing fairly,” he said.
When NASCAR is done inspecting, the car is to remain at the height that is set during that time – so front end would be 4.25 inches without the blocks/lasers.
The change will have NASCAR allow the car to go straight to race attitude when it is off the blocks, which the attitude will be up to the teams to pick.
“If they want to drop the front end of the car down to half an inch, they’re able to do that,” he explained. “If they want to drop it to 1.5 inches, they’re able to do that. So we’re actually letting them put the car in more of a race position.
“Because what happens when the car is sitting there statically at 4.25 inches, as soon as it gets on the track, the downforce on that car drives the front end down towards the track anyway. But then what happens is that front end tends to bounce and load and unload, and this is how you get some of the instability.”
The second change is the package will include a square leading edge on the splitter, side skirt and rear fascia adjustments. The cars will also require an eight-inch rear spoiler.
Lastly, a 43-inch by 13-inch radiator pan will be required.
The changes are meant to play with the downforce of the car, the amount of downforce and play with the balance from front to rear.
Given the time frame from Charlotte’s test to the season in wanting to give teams time to prepare, Stefanyshyn said that these were changes they thought they could make for now, but it’s not the final solution. Heading into the 2015 season, there will be more changes made.
One of the future changes – and was played with at the test – could be the addition of a tapered spacer, which would in fact cut some of the horsepower. The theory is lower cars equal more passing. Stefanyshyn said it wasn’t implemented this year due to timing wise, but could be looked at for next year.
“This is definitely something that we are entertaining for ’15, but we want to take a more holistic approach to when we solve it,” he said. “We’d like to be able to do perhaps three things at once, and we think come up with a more robust solution that can serve us better in the longer run. So this is something I think we are going to definitely look at for ’15.”
For now, Stefanyshyn feels that this will draw the field closer together, allowing for better competition and more passing.
“We think we’re moving in that direction,” he said. “As you well know, there are many different opinions, and if you sit there and listen to them all, some people say no downforce, some people say more downforce, and it’s kind of all over the place.
“So it is a bit–you’ll find some people that agree, and some people disagree. We think we’ve got it right. We’ve looked at the data and it all seems to be pointing in this direction. We also need to understand that our average speeds have gone up by somewhere around 35 miles an hour, and our tire patch essentially or the amount of tire we have on a track has not changed. So we do have certain dynamics that have occurred over history that we’re managing.”