CP MOTORSPORTS - THE TESTING PROCESS CONTINUES IN NASCAR
The hunt for suspense continues in NASCAR.
Wednesday afternoon, 13 Sprint Cup teams participated in an open test at steamy Bristol Motor Speedway in preparation for the Aug. 22 IRWIN Tools Night Race at BMS.
While NASCAR officials have no rule alterations planned for the iconic Saturday night showdown in the hills of Northeast Tennessee, fans have become increasingly frustrated over the lack of passing in Sprint Cup events.
In reponse to the outcry from bored fans and frustrated drivers, NASCAR has experimented with different combinations.
The July 11 event at Kentucky Speedway featured the debut of a lower downforce aerodynamic package. In the July 26 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, teams were forced to adapt to a high drag platform.
The Kentucky race featured more passing and a more compelling brand of theatre. The high-profile Brickyard event included some chaotic restarts, but the event was bogged down by more follow-the-leader parades so fan reviews were mixed.
Joe Gibbs Racing regular Carl Edwards said Wednesday at BMS that he appreciates the extra efforts of NASCAR to generate more spark in the series.
“I applaud NASCAR for doing so much and trying all these different things to produce the best racing they can,” Edwards said.
According to Edwards, the problem boils down to two familiar words - aero dependency.
“I really think if they take downforce away, you are just going to get better and better racing,” he said. “There is nothing better than stock cars racing close together and doing what stock cars have done for 50 years. The more we go back to that, the better off we are going to be.”
A partial of other drivers at Wednesday’s test included Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports), Danica Patrick (Stewart-Haas Racing), Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing), Paul Menard (Richard Childress Racing and defending IRWIN Tools Night Race winner Joey Logano from Team Penske.
While the emphasis Wednesday was on data instead of speed, Edwards wasn’t complaining about spending eight hours zooming around the concrete oval.
“This place is so much fun, I mean it’s one of the most exciting race tracks in the world,” Edwards said. “We’ve run really well here. We had a super fast car in the spring, but I kind of got a little aggressive and ended up wrecking.”
In addition to a reduction in aero dependency at BMS, Edwards said he would like to see an end to thick spoilers and the introduction of a softer tire compound which would force drivers to manhandle their cars. Those suggestions also apply to other tracks.
“When the tires begin to fall off, you end up having better racing,” “Edwards said. “Bristol is fast for a half-mile, but it’s just slow enough that you can have some really awesome racing regardless of the aero package. We’re very fortunate to have a track like this on the schedule.”
Blaney, who finished second to Kyle Busch in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis, agreed that some tinkering with the tire compound might translate into some fun.
“Drivers always talk about how they want tires to fall off,” Blaney said. “We have a very fast race track here and about the only thing they can do is make the tires fall off more, but I don’t think they’re gonna to do that.”
As for Wednesday’s test, Blaney said teams were not searching for any magic formula.
“This car we’re running today is what we started the year with, it’s the standard 2015 package,” he said. “The great thing about these tests is that teams have a whole list of things they want to do, whether it’s trying stuff that worked at another race track or things our engineers come up with and want to try. It’s great for BMS and NASCAR to let us come out there and test.”
Blaney said no trickery is needed to improve the IRWIN Tools Night Race.
“I think the racing here is pretty good, and I don’t think they can do anything to make these cars better,” he said. “We just have to keeping finding ways to make our car better and get it to work on the bottom. If you have a good enough car, you will find a way to pass people on the bottom of the track.”
For Logano, Wednesday presented another chance to refine an already proven package.
“I’m just trying to make my car faster, that’s what these tests are all about,” he said. “We’re trying parts and pieces that we don’t normally get to try and we’re gathering data on the car to make improvements.”