NASCAR and drivers seek solutions for current car

Sanctioning body schedules meeting at Dover

DOVER, Del. — NASCAR is meeting with a select group of drivers tonight following the XFINITY Series race at Dover International Speedway. 

The news was first reported on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Saturday morning.

Sprint Cup drivers have assembled in the past. That’s nothing new. Before Dale Earnhardt passed away, the seven-time champion invited drivers to Dale Earnhardt Inc. to discuss the topics du jour. And Cup drivers have had multiple town meetings with NASCAR as well, particularly since the development of the Generation 6 car.

Drivers come together

However, today’s drivers appear to be a little more organized. Entering the 2015 season — just months after the Race Team Alliance was formed last July — rumors circulated that a group of drivers hoping to advance their causes had also banded together. 

In the past, NASCAR just shot from the hip with the rules thinking that they might know what’s best — and we might not know what’s best ... I think we can make better decisions

Greg Biffle

Several current concerns were mentioned — but primarily safety and competition. As the season has progressed, those two same topics continue to take precedent particularly following Kyle Busch’s wreck at Daytona and the inability to pass with the new rules package — particularly during the last three events. 

Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick did not mince words when it came to current aerodynamic issues in racing following the All-Star event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Harvick added the problem was not exclusive to NASCAR, nor would it ever be fixed.

Aero-push

“It’s always going to exist in racing,” Harvick said of aero-push. “It’s never going to not exist. Your car is never going to run as fast behind another car as it does by itself. It’s just impossible. It’s just absolutely impossible. And I think these cars, over the last 20 years, have become more sensitive in aero-push. I just think in the 70’s and 80’s it was probably there; they just didn’t know. And we almost know too much about everything that’s going on now.  

“I could make my car run fast behind other cars last week, but it’s just a totally different way of driving the car when you’re behind somebody than it is when you’re driving by yourself. Denny (Hamlin, All-Star Race winner) made a good move and he kind of caught me off-guard. I felt like I had options to run all the way up against the wall or I could run on the bottom. I could maneuver my car. It’s just that he kind of caught me off-guard at the right time and I was committed to the middle. 

“And when you’re carrying too much speed on entry and over-using the throttle like you do in a 10-lap sprint, you’re right on the edge of really losing the front-end if somebody’s in front of you. When you’re behind a car, you can’t overdrive it. It’s just something that’s always going to exist. It’s impossible to fix.”

Pushing for a solution

Veteran Greg Biffle, who won championships in the Truck and XFINITY series prior to his 13-year tenure in Cup, told motorsport.com that 90-percent of the competitors are in agreement when it comes to their discussions. The drivers’ focus is really not about individual agendas, it’s about improving competition in concert with NASCAR.

He also agrees with Harvick, regarding the inability to pass the front car, but offers the following analogy. 

“You can’t see air, right? So how do you explain it to someone,” Biffle said. “About every person in the world has been on a boat at some time — out on the water, on a lake water skiing, running an inner tube, whatever it is. You line up six boats, the guy in the front, it’s like pure glass — as smooth as you’ve ever seen it. What’s it look like for the guy behind him? What about the third boat back or the sixth boat back? It looks like the ocean. Now, how do you get the front guy to make no wake? It’s impossible. 

“The question becomes, how do you minimize that deterioration for the guys behind? If you steer away from the analogy of the water, now you have mechanical grip, which means the tires hold onto the race track so it doesn’t rely on the air to guide the car any more. There’s the component of mechanical grip to the race track that the tires provide, versus the aero grip that the body helps the car sticks to the race track. The challenge is marrying those two together to where you desensitize the aero some and try to increase the mechanical — softer tire, better grip — well then the car is going too fast and we’re all, ‘well, the car is going to fast in corner speed,’ so we have to slow the cars down. It’s a vicious circle.”

Slower corner speed

With the latest iteration of the Generation 6 cars, most drivers suggested that NASCAR decrease the aerodynamics of the current models which in turn would slow the corner speed and require less grip to handle the speeds into the turns. 

“When you deteriorate that grip slightly, it’s a bigger impact,” Biffle said. “The slower you go around the corners, the less effect the air has…if you bring the corner speed down a little bit and you slow the car down, work on the corner then speed back up again, the better racing, potentially, you’re going to have.

“It’s all those things combined together to try to create the best scenario you can. Harvick’s right. You’re never going to eliminate it, but you should try to minimize the effect that it has.”

While Biffle had not been asked to attend Saturday night’s meeting at the casino, he sympathizes with the predicament and feels the sport has to work as a whole to develop a solution. Compounding the situation, Biffle adds is the development of the car is a moving target and for every action there could be a worst reaction. 

“In the past, NASCAR just shot from the hip with the rules thinking that they might know what’s best — and we might not know what’s best — but collectively, I think we can make better decisions on what’s better,” Biffle said. “I don't think anyone has the perfect answer because if we don’t know the answers. It’s always a revolving door. It’s always changing. If we knew exactly, or if they knew exactly what to do to make the most awesome racing ever, they’d do it tomorrow, come back next week and it would be done.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Event Dover
Track Dover International Speedway
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Denny Hamlin
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Roush Fenway Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing
Article type Analysis