Tech talk: Lots to be learned at Kentucky
July 07, 2015, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said a lot will be learned from this weekend's race at Kentucky Speedway, but the Hendrick Motorsports driver doesn't expect the different aero package to "reveal a lot of obvious answers on the way we need to go."
The Kentucky package will feature a shorter spoiler as well as changes to the splitter and splitter extension panel (radiator pan), moves that will lessen the amount of downforce on the cars by approximately 1,000 pounds, and, it is hoped, create an improved product on the track.
Earnhardt, speaking Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, said not having a tire to match up with the low downforce package is the issue.
Sprint Cup Series teams will compete in the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR).
"The tire is a bit better, but not quite enough," he said. "I think that is understood amongst NASCAR, ourselves and Goodyear. The Kentucky weekend won't be a weekend we take a ton of stock in as far as what this package is really going to be able to lend us and if it would work somewhere else."
Goodyear officials already had produced the 2,200 tires needed for Kentucky before the decision to use the low downforce package was finalized. The tire that will be used does have more grip but was not used specifically with this package when teams tested there in April.
Steve O'Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer for NASCAR, told SiriusXM NASCAR that officials believe the change will be effective for the 1.5-mile track.
"We're going to look at the measurements we look at every day: were there more passes, who was able to compete, how did the field look throughout the race, obviously fan measurements post-race," he said.
Goodyear Prepped for Darlington
Goodyear officials returned to Darlington Raceway on June 30 for a one-day tire test featuring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars running a low downforce package related to that which is being used this weekend at Kentucky.
Three drivers -- Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas Racing), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) and Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing) -- took part in the test at the 1.366-mile track.
"The goal was to evaluate the low downforce package, similar to what is going to be run at Kentucky, and see if we couldn't match a tire to that package," Greg Stucker, Director of Race Tire Sales for Goodyear, said Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
"When I say match, I mean replace aero grip with mechanical grip. Try to basically do it one for one and we feel like we did that. It was between three quarters of a second and a second slower just with aero downforce reduction and we feel like we gave about three-fourths to a second back. That was our goal, to do it one for one."
Tuesday, NASCAR's Steve O'Donnell announced that a low-downforce package would indeed be used at Darlington.
However, the changes doesn't mirror those being used this weekend at Kentucky -- the spoiler will be 3-1/2 inches instead of 3-inches and the splitter will have a 1/4-inch leading edge.
The tire tested at Darlington features a softer compound as well as a construction change. Stucker said it was similar to the Kentucky right-side tire and the left-side tire used at Indianapolis.
"I think the drivers felt like they had plenty of grip," Stucker said. "We got them together about noon and made sure that it seemed like we were moving in the right direction ... we left there feeling pretty good about our part of it. I think wear might be up a little bit with a softer package ... but you would expect that."
Infractions Aplenty at Daytona
There were a season-high 65 penalties doled out during Sunday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, with the majority (35) for pitting before pit road was open.
That infraction isn't unusual when multi-car crashes leave plenty of cars with damaged sheet metal, which definitely was the case at Daytona.
The overall total eclipsed the previous high mark of 43 set earlier this year at Martinsville Speedway.