Sanctioning body met with competitors to discuss the Chase and plans for 2016.
NASCAR met with the Sprint Cup teams at Michigan International Speedway following qualifying on Friday to discuss the plans for the Chase and beyond.
NASCAR Executive Vice President & Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell told the assembly of drivers, crew chiefs and team owners there will be no changes for this year’s Chase.
Closing in on 2016 package
The 2016 rules package for the Sprint Cup cars will be determined shortly after the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 6. Darlington will offer NASCAR a second look at the low downforce aerodynamic package — which was initially used at Kentucky Speedway sans the proper tire which would enhance the configuration.
“The goal of the meeting was to discuss what we’ve seen at Michigan so far, also talk about where we’re going for the future as we come out of Michigan to Darlington with that rules package but the specific topic we wanted to cover with the industry was regarding the Chase — and our decision to keep the package as it is for the Chase,” O’Donnell said. “In a lot of discussions we had with the industry — and that includes the tracks, the drivers, the race teams, the OEMs — all believe that was in the best interest of the sport, excited about the Chase, excited about the package and what’s to come in the Chase, especially when you look back to last year.”
Leaving Chase races alone
O’Donnell says NASCAR and the teams “shared some good dialogue back and forth.” The sanctioning body is “pleased” with what they’ve seen with the 2015 package and given the teams’ current workload, the industry agreed it was in everyone’s best interest to stay the course — for now.
“A lot of work has been done by the race teams already for the final 10 races, so we feel like that’s the best decision for the sport,” O’Donnell said. “I think it’s important to look at what our original plan (to test the different aero packages) was and that was Kentucky, Michigan and Darlington. Then we looked at Indianapolis, too, to apply the Michigan package. So our messaging all along was keeping the Chase where it was with the 2015 rules package.
“And in some of the dialogue, some of the folks wanted to push forward, potentially, but when we looked at all the things that have been done, the preparation that’s been done, the amount of work our industry has put into those races — which we truly appreciate — we think we’re going to have the best racing for the fans with the 2015 package for all 10 races.”
O’Donnell said NASCAR will analyze Sunday’s race and Darlington then talk to its shareholders before making decisions for 2016.
"We feel pretty good about where we may head based on what we'll see on the racetrack and then go in and do some SIM work with our partners directionally on those packages to see if we can fine tune that," O'Donnell said.
Kenseth comments on aero package after securing Michigan pole
Joe Gibbs Racing had adapted quickly to both the low aero package at Kentucky and the high drag package that was run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and this weekend at Michigan. Kyle Busch won at both Kentucky and Indy while Carl Edwards won the pole for the Brickyard 400.
Matt Kenseth, who will share the front row for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 with his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin, is open to whatever aerodynamic package provides the best product on the racetrack.
“We all want what’s best for the fans and NASCAR and everything because that’s what ends up being the best for the sponsors which is best for us.
“Honestly, our cars have been fast in all three configurations. Kyle has won in all three configurations. We’ve been up front in all three of them — on speed and in the races and in qualifying. So from that aspect, I feel ok about it no matter what they bring. Personally, I like the low-downforce — slowing down for the corners and having to wrestle the car a little bit and drive it and look around for grooves without having all the aero effects of big cars throwing a lot of air off — but personally, that’s just what I like better.
“I really believe with the direction we’re going in right now that we can run and be competitive in all of them," concluded Kenseth.