NASCAR has yet to confirm that Sprint Cup teams will compete with lower downforce cars at Kentucky Speedway, but teams are already testing the cars
When NASCAR told the Sprint Cup teams on Wednesday that a new lower downforce aerodynamic package could be coming for Kentucky Speedway on July 11, the wind tunnels around Charlotte, N.C. started filling up.
According to several sources that have seen the numbers from early trips to tunnel, the reductions of downforce with the new configurations will mean 825 to 1,000-pounds less of overall downforce to the cars. Side force dropped roughly 50 to 55 pounds with a reduction of 70 counts of drag horsepower.
One engineer told Motorsport.com the sensation for the drivers will be like gaining 110 horsepower under the hood. He added, “A real game changer.”
Teams will have four extra hours of practice at Kentucky Speedway on Wednesday night.
Kasey Kahne, who will start on the pole for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan, tested the lower downforce package at Charlotte earlier this year.
I ran by myself and felt like it was the first time I could really drive the car, control the car, lift and do things to make the car work, rather than just run super hard all the time like what we are doing.
"I really liked it," Kahne said of the lower downforce package. "I ran by myself and felt like it was the first time I could really drive the car, control the car, lift and do things to make the car work, rather than just run super hard all the time like what we are doing. I liked that, but that is how when I came into the sport, that is how it was. You drove more with both feet. You found speed in different spots of the corner and you weren’t wide open. I’ve always kind of had that … that is how I’ve raced.
"I don’t know the differences. I think as time has changed it has been something for me to try to learn. I want to learn whatever NASCAR has us race, but I look forward to doing something different. I look forward to if that is the direction they go I think it will be great. But we will all need to work on it for a while to make it the best that it can be. Then we will see kind of where that stands with what we have today.”
When Carl Edwards was asked if he approved of the modifications proposed by NASCAR, the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota replied, “Are you kidding me?”
“I’d be in favor of anything that makes the cars able to race around each other and to put more of the speed into the drivers hands,” Edwards said. “I know NASCAR is all for the same thing. Everybody wants this thing to be the best possible show for the fans and I don’t think NASCAR is scared to make changes.
“I think it’s really cool that they’ve been talking with the drivers more, they’ve been more involved with it and without knowing really the details, I think we’re heading in the right direction. I have a sense that there will be some neat things coming.”
Where the rubber meets the road
Since Goodyear already tested at Kentucky Speedway and selected the codes, there’s no changing the tire with less than a month before the Quaker State 400 on July 11.
Goodyear scheduled its tire test for April 15 with Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Brett Moffitt and Ryan Newman.
I don't have enough time to remanufacture a new setup of the Kentucky race — and that would be without any testing.
“We are just finishing up our Kentucky race production right now,” Stu Grant, General Manager, Global Race Tires told motorsport.com. “I don't have enough time to remanufacture a new setup of the Kentucky race — and that would be without any testing.
“We tested at Kentucky but we did not test a low downforce tire or a low downforce car combination — that never hit the ground. We were ready to do that, but that never hit the ground.”
Grant said his team has been gathering low downforce data during other tracks and are working to develop a tire that will correlate. Goodyear had a low downforce tire prepared to run during All Star Race — when there were discussion of bringing the car to Charlotte. But NASCAR elected not to follow through with the plan.
On Friday, Jeff Gordon said a softer tire will be necessary to complete a competitive package.
“I’m fine with what I’m hearing about a reduction in downforce if they can bring a softer tire,” Gordon said. “To me that is the whole key in kind of where we are at today. We knew the power was being reduced. A lot of the drivers were really asking for less downforce if the power was going to be reduced, but the key component to that was being able to get Goodyear to match the tire up for that to have a little bit more grip at the beginning of a run and maybe have some fall off.
“That has been one of the biggest challenges this year is that we are actually running harder tires. We are on a harder tire here this weekend…We want to have a tire that has some good grip, but it gives up each lap. I’m hoping this is the direction that will get us there.”