The numbers show the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has featured some of its best racing in years this season.
Three of the first 14 races set track records for green flag passes for the lead – Atlanta (44), Auto Club (51) and Bristol (40) – a stat founded in 2005 that compiles lead changes all around the race track while under green flag conditions.
In addition, two races – the Daytona 500 and Phoenix – tied for the seventh closest MOV since the inception of electronic timing and scoring in 1993.
Furthermore, there were 213 green flag passes for the lead at Talladega, six passes for the lead shy of tying the record for most green flag passes for the lead in a single race (Talladega, 2013).
Many of NASCAR’s key figures attribute the aforementioned superlatives to the new lower downforce rules package implemented in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for 2016.
“It’s (lower downforce package) great,” 13-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said earlier this season. “Every week has been fun, fun, fun. The cars are fun to drive, slipping and sliding. It’s a good challenge and I’m enjoying it.”
In Sunday’s FireKeepers 400 at Michigan International Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1), NASCAR will debut rules updates to further lower the downforce. Decreasing downforce makes the car harder to control and lowers speeds in the turns, thereby creating a higher potential for passing.
Last month, NASCAR added welded truck trailing arms and new brake cooling guidelines to its rules package. On Sunday, and in the July 9 contest at Kentucky Speedway, the sanctioning body will update the rules package by reducing skew-generated sideforce by setting the rear toe zero. It will also make three aerodynamics package tweaks to lower aero-generated downforce and sideforce: shortening the spoiler from 3.5 inches to 2.5 inches; reducing the splitter to two inches; and resizing the deck fin to match the spoiler.
“The newer, more improved, less downforce side force package, that should be really interesting,” said Brad Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. “I heard the top speeds were really, really fast but the corner speeds were down which I think should provide a really good platform for side-by-side racing and opening opportunities to pass. I think we are all really encouraged by that. It is a huge variable for our teams that they will all work through. I think it has a tremendous potential to be the future direction for our sport. That is really interesting and exciting to me personally.”
“NASCAR is doing what it takes, the teams are doing what it takes to go out and figure out how to make this the best racing it can be,” said Carl Edwards, a 27-time race winner. “This is going to be a blast. These cars, when you drive them sideways at 200 mph, you’re close to people and you’re able to pressure them and race like that, that’s as good as it gets.
“I’m very excited about Michigan and Kentucky. It’s like Christmas for me.”