Parks Pit Report: Pure Michigan 400

Matt Kenseth took the win at Michigan, the second race this year using a new high-drag aerodynamic rules package.

Matt Kenseth took the win at Michigan, the second race this year using a new high-drag aerodynamic rules package.

Three weeks ago, when NASCAR visited Indianapolis, the sanctioning body tested out a new aerodynamic package that was to not reduce downforce, but rather increase the amount of drag from the cars.

The package includes a nine-inch rear spoiler, whereas the usual height is six inches, and included a one-inch wicker at the top, similar to what was used in the 2001 season at restrictor plate tracks.

There was also a rear fascia extension panel similar to that at a super speedway, a two-inch leading edge of the front splitter, and finally a 43-inch splitter extension panel, otherwise known as the roll pan.

When this package was run at Indianapolis, drivers were critical of it because it felt as though a car could suck up really good to the car in front, but when trying to make the pass it seemed as though momentum would stall.

At the same time, Indianapolis has a narrow groove and very abrupt corners, whereas Michigan is a much wider surface where it’s not uncommon for drivers to run a line ranging from right along the apron to where they are flirting with the wall.

Not only that, but the race conditions were similar to Indianapolis, with temperatures flirting in the mid-80’s and humidity in the 65-70 percent range.  Many drivers after Indy were needing treated for heat-related issues, so NASCAR mandated that of the 14 NACA ducts that take airflow from outside the car and bring it inside to cool the driver, three of them had to be used, because many teams were opting to not use them because they felt it gave an aerodynamic advantage to competitors if they had them open.  But, with this package, the air runs hotter and is trapped under the car, meaning the cockpit heats up even more.

Some drivers showed temperatures soaring above 140 degrees inside the car, which is roasting since they are wearing a firesuit, fire retardant clothing, gloves and helmet.

At the end of 400 miles, statistically the package showed that it did increase passing on the track.  Overall, there were 3,886 passes on the track under green-flag conditions, just barely under the record for Michigan, but for the drivers they felt it was a different feeling.

Some were saying with the heat, it made handling a challenge, as everyone was running rather loose.  Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 DOW Chevrolet, said, ” I think if it was cooler, it would have been a tougher day to pass because everybody would have been a little better.”

Overall, at least to me, the package did not live up to the expectations.  Two completely different tracks, but ended up with similar conditions, and similar troubles.  This package is not the answer, and it is the last time it will be run this season.  In the Chase, the rules package that was used to start the season will be used in all the races, minus Talladega as there is a specific package just for plate tracks.  In three weeks when NASCAR heads to Darlington, they will again run a different rules package.  This one is designated as low downforce.  This package was run last month at Kentucky, and was met with great results from fans and drivers.

The only change that will come from that race to now is Goodyear will bring a softer compound tire, which is what the drivers believe will work best with that set of rules.

All that NASCAR is trying to do is make better competition for the teams, and better action for the fans.  High-drag seems to not be the answer, so another test of low downforce could lead to more changes for next season.

RESULTS:  1-Kenseth  2-Harvick  3-Truex Jr.  4-Dillon  5-Hamlin  6-Edwards  7-Logano  8-Newman  9-Keselowski  10-Earnhardt Jr.

NOTABLE FINISHES:  11-Kyle Busch  17-Gordon  20-Kurt Busch  39-Johnson

CAUTIONS:  8 for 31 laps.  Lap 2-5 (#55 spin-T2); 11-13 (Debris-BS); 22-24 (Competition); 73-76 (Debris-T2); 122-125 (Debris-T1); 127-130 (#15, 31 accident-BS); 137-141 (#14 spin-T4); 184-187 (#48 spin-T4).

LEAD CHANGES:  16 among 8 drivers.  M. Kenseth 1-22; A. Dillon 23-40; M. Kenseth 41-59; J. Gordon 60; Kyle Busch 61-62; M. Kenseth 63-75; C. Bowyer 76; M. Kenseth 77-98; K. Harvick 99-113; C. Edwards 114-116; M. Kenseth 117-122; C. Edwards 123-124; A. Dillon 125; M. Kenseth 126-164; Kyle Busch 165-172; A. Almirola 173-175; M. Kenseth 176-200.

TIME OF RACE:  2 Hrs, 47 Mins, 13 Secs.

AVERAGE SPEED:  143.455 MPH

MARGIN OF VICTORY:  1.722 Seconds

CHASE GRID:  1. Johnson-752 (points), 4 (wins); 2. Kyle Busch-395, 4; 3. Kenseth-751, 3; 4. Harvick-866, 2; 5. Logano-818, 2; 6. Earnhardt Jr-784, 2; 7. Kurt Busch-683, 2; 8. Truex Jr-755, 1; 9. Keselowski-754, 1; 10. Hamlin-670, 1; 11. Edwards-628, 1; 12. McMurray, -203 (from 1st); 13. Menard, -212; 14. Newman, -217; 15. Gordon, -218; 16. Bowyer, -250.

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