The low-downforce aero package once again proved successful in the eyes of NASCAR's Sprint Cup competitors.
If there is such a thing as a consensus in NASCAR, the low-downforce aerodynamics package debuted at Kentucky earlier this season may be as close as the sport gets to it.
The package, preferred by many of the Sprint Cup Series’ top drivers, was paired with a tire package to match for Sunday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and again received rave reviews.
I don’t think I can get in trouble for how much I liked it, but I loved it
Race winner Carl Edwards
Even in a grueling race that lasted nearly 4½ hours, as the race wound to its conclusion the win was still up for grabs with three drivers – Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick – still in the hunt for the victory.
Edwards has been one of the most vocal proponents of the low-downforce package, believing putting more control of the outcome of races in drivers’ hands would produce a better racing product.
“I don’t think I can get in trouble for how much I liked it, but I loved it – this is as good as it gets,” Edwards said after his victory. “This is what it’s about, we’re sliding cars, tires are falling off – this is the style of racing – if there’s any chance we can run this in the Chase, I hope we can do it.
“It was an awesome day.”
Sunday’s race is the last this season in which the package will be used, a fact reiterated by NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, Steve O’Donnell, after the race.
NASCAR pleased with Southern 500
NASCAR’s initial reaction after the race was very positive and O’Donnell said he expected a decision in a few weeks on whether the package will be used and how often in the 2016 season.
“We’ll spend the proper time with the industry – the race teams, the drivers – and have a decision toward the end of the month,” he said. “We’re really pleased with how the race track came together with the “Throwback” idea and I think what you saw was it culminated with a terrific race on the track as well.”
Early in the race, O’Donnell himself took to Twitter to engage fans, asking for some feedback on what they had seen on the track.
“It was early in the race and everyone seemed to like the ‘Throwback’ theme of the weekend. It seemed to be fairly positive from the fans,” he said. “Lot of on-track action between drivers, you saw Carl Edwards two laps down come back and win the race, which was an incredible feat.
“For us, it’s always about entertaining racing on the track. I think the drivers delivered that tonight.”
Even drivers who didn’t get to visit Victory Lane expressed a lot of support for the package and how it played out at Darlington.
“I loved it. It separates the race car drivers from the pretends, and that’s the way it should be,” said runner-up Brad Keselowski.
"It's the package we need to run for now on," said Denny Hamlin.
After the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. expressed his support for the package on Twitter.
Both Edwards and Jamie McMurray said they hoped the package run at Darlington is a starting point of more changes to come.
“I think the general consensus among all of the drivers at least is that we would like to start with this and possibly try to even get more downforce off the cars,” McMurray said. “It seems like they race better when you are behind someone, when you are not as dependent on having the air on the car.
“It doesn’t matter what type of racing you watch the leader always has a little bit of an advantage, but it seems like he has less of an advantage with the smaller spoiler and this rules package.”