For those who liked the racing NASCAR’s lower downforce package has provided in the Cup series, 2017 will bring more of the same.
NASCAR provided Cup teams with the 2017 rules package last week and this weekend, that package was made public.
A new lower downforce package has been experimented with for some time with the goal being an increase in passing by putting more control in the driver’s hands. NASCAR used a lower downforce package at several races in 2015, instituted those changes for 2016, and made further tweaks to the package this season at Kentucky Speedway and Michigan International Speedway this season.
The information gathered from those tests was used to form a baseline for the 2017 rules package. The downforce will be further deceased next year. To put it in perspective, downforce was reduced about 700 pounds, from 2700 to 2000, for 2016. The rules for 2017 will reduce that to around the 1500 pound range.
“The objective there is to give the drivers, put the driving back in their hands a bit more … take less aero dependence off the car,” Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, told NASCAR.com. “That’s the big thing.
“The amount we are taking off the front and the rear is the same proportion; we try to keep the balance of the car identical. So it’s been taken off in the same proportion to maintain the balance of the car as it was last year.”
The new changes for 2017 include:
Rear spoiler dimensions for all non-restricted events will be 2 3/8 inches x 61 inches. That’s down from a current spoiler of 3 1/2 x 61. At the Kentucky and Michigan races, the dimensions were 2 1/2 x 53 inches.
The splitter measurements (the valance that runs along the front of the car) for the 2017 package will be the same as those for the 2016 Kentucky and Michigan races, but there will a 3-inch reduction in the outboard areas, or in other words, the side areas.
There will also be a tapered rear deck fin on the right hand side, and a rear steering skew of zero.
The rear skew has been the subject of much debate; teams use rear skew to help cars turn, however NASCAR began to regulate the practice. This is part of the post race measurement picked up by the Laser Inspection Station, which some teams have failed.
In 2017, this measurement will be net zero.
For the superspeedway races at Daytona and Talladega the aero package will remain unaffected, however there will be a reduction in restrictor plate size (from 57/64ths to 7/8ths of an inch) to slow the increased speeds teams have found this season at those two tracks.
There will be safety updates for 2017 as well.
NASCAR had already announced that for 2017 the front firewall and foot box areas, rear roll cage area behind the driver and the area along the left side door area of the driver’s compartment will be strengthen. These areas are referred to as anti-intrusion panels. The thickness of the pieces will increased for more strength and to allow each to have stronger welds.
The structural changes strengthen the interior area of the car surrounding the driver and lessen the movement of items in the event of an impact. For 2017, the allowed vehicle weight will increase by 20 pounds to accommodate those structural changes to the cars. Friday officials added toeboard foam that will also now be mandatory at superspeedways, as will the addition of a roof hatch. Changes to steering column mounting and the use of a garage-only fuel coupler, which will be mandatory for all events, round out the 2017 safety changes. The fuel coupler is meant to reduce spillage in the garage area, a safety and environmental concern.
“Basically … there is going to be a strengthened dash firewall; (on the) front left of the chassis there will be a piece zippered in; also in the back, near the rear clip, another piece that will be zippered in,” Stefanyshyn said. “The floorboard and toe board area will be made out of one piece, beefed up, also.
“This has a couple of elements to it; one is to manage front crash, the other to manage if you are hit in the side.”
Perhaps the biggest change for 2017 is the reduction of the tire allotment for teams; more importantly, teams will be required to start the race on the same tires that were used in qualifying.
“We’ve been tracking tires for two or three years now and we see how many are purchased and how many remain,” Stefanyshyn said. “We are seeing that there is an opportunity to trim some tires. … Also we’re starting to creep up to trying to bring some strategy around the tires.
“It’s not a huge reduction, it’s a comfortable reduction but it’s kind of moving in that direction.”
The package however is still not set in stone. By revealing it early, NASCAR is looking for feedback from competitors. In addition, there could be further testing prior to the first race at Daytona in 2017.
“We’re always looking at different ways to do things … we would hope that next year’s package can be a continuation and a little bit more of a long-term, stable rules package,” Scott Miller, Senior Vice President of Competition for the sanctioning body, said.
“But nothing ever stays the same. Moving forward we will look at more efficient ways to potentially test possible packages for the future.
“I think we did a good job the last few times with the races, that’s really the best way to collect data in an actual event … hopefully we can get out in front of it even a little bit further and get a little bit more of a cross section of race tracks if we have some proposed new things.”
The changes for 2017 should not only increase passing, they should provide for more exciting racing. Two years in the making, the new 2017 low downforce package is where NASCAR wants to be, and should meet with universal approval from fans and competitors.