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New rules coming at several tracks this season

July 07, 2015, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Darlington, Indianapolis, Michigan, Richmond join Kentucky in seeing changes

RELATED: Tech Talk: Lots to be learned at Kentucky

A low downforce rules package similar to that scheduled for use by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams this weekend at Kentucky Speedway will be run in September at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, according to Steve O'Donnell, Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer for the sanctioning body.

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In addition, teams will compete with a higher drag rules package at both Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this month as well as Michigan International Speedway in August.

This weekend's Kentucky aero package features a shorter spoiler (reduced from 6 inches to 3-1/2 inches) and a splitter extension panel (radiator pan) reduction from 38 inches to 25 inches. The splitter will have 1-3/4 inches less overhang that what has previously been used this season.

Combined, the aero changes are expected to lessen the amount of downforce on the cars by approximately 1,000 pounds.

Teams have a four-hour extended practice scheduled for Wednesday at Kentucky to acclimate themselves to the new package.

"The ideal package for us is matching the tire with lower downforce, and when we looked at the schedule, the most ideal venue for that was Darlington, so we feel like we have the lead time for Goodyear to come in and build that specific tire, so that's why we moved forward on the Darlington package," O'Donnell said.

While the Darlington setup will be similar to that slated for this weekend's Quaker State 400, there are differences. The spoiler will be 3-1/2 (instead of 3 inches) inches and the splitter will feature a 1/4-inch leading edge. There is no change in the size of the splitter extension panel (25 inches).

Although the tires used this weekend at Kentucky were not tested at the 1.5-mile track with the lower downforce platform during an April tire test, Goodyear officials were able to determine a tire for the Darlington package during a one-day test last week with drivers Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas Racing), Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Brad Keselowski (Team Penske).

For Indy and Michigan, the aero package will feature a 9-inch spoiler and 1-inch wicker bill; a rear fascia extension panel similar to that currently used for superspeedway events; a 2-inch leading edge on the splitter; and a 43-inch splitter extension panel.

Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon set the track qualifying record at Michigan last year with a lap of 206.558 mph. The high drag package scheduled for use is expected to slow speeds by nearly 10 mph.

"You'll see some significant mile‑per‑hour differences," O’Donnell said. "That'll change depending on single-car (runs) and the draft, but I think we're looking at over 200 (mph) before and kind of the 191 range that we'd be looking at now."

Gordon was asked about high-drag changes for this past weekend while at Daytona International Speedway.

"I think it is obvious to all of us that (Indy) is one of the hardest places we have to pass," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said.

"I think we are all in favor of trying a low downforce package and we want to try the opposite of that; I think Indy and Michigan are good tracks to try that out. We will just have to see what happens. ...

"If we can get the speeds right, then what it is going to do is create a really massive hole in the air for you to draft up to down the straightaway. Those are long straightaways at both of those tracks. The question is still what is going to happen when you are behind another car through a corner.

"The magic is there, we just have to figure out how to pull it off."

Indy is a 2.5-mile track while MIS is a 2-mile venue.

O'Donnell said additional track time would be added to the race-weekend schedule at those venues affected by the rules changes.

"There won't be earlier test dates (at the individual tracks)," he said. "It'll be built into the race weekend like Kentucky. ... Michigan you can see us add an hour, hour and a half practice time. Same thing around Indy."

There are no scheduled aero changes for the upcoming race at Richmond International Raceway, the final race before the start of this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, however Goodyear will not return with a multi-zone tread compound tire that had been used there recently.

"I think all of this shows that we remain committed to putting the best racing on in the world, and each of these, including Kentucky this weekend, I think shows everybody that we've got several components that make up a rules package each week, and they can certainly be adjusted, and we will do that if we can do something that we believe will improve the racing for the fans at each track," O'Donnell said.

The changes are not currently scheduled for use at any tracks hosting Chase races.