Given the strong buzz about the higher-downforce, restrictor-plate competition package used for the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race in May, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the configuration would get additional test time—sooner rather than later.
That happened on Tuesday and Wednesday at Michigan International Speedway in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series manufacturers’ wheel-force test at the two-mile track. David Ragan drove a Ford, Justin Allgaier a Chevrolet and Drew Herring a Toyota.
“They’ve got a new tire for Michigan, so the manufacturers elected to use one of our wheel-force tests to go up, and we ran some laps with the current aero package, and we ran some laps with the new All-Star package,” Ragan said. “I felt like, with just three cars there, it’s really hard to get a really good read on what kind of draft you would have, what kind of ability you would have to pass cars.
“But I felt like it was similar to Charlotte. They cars drove really good. You could stay in the throttle. You felt like you were definitely going slower, but it did create a little bit of a draft, and it bunched everybody up. We only had three cars there, but we did run some together, and it was pretty easy to stay caught up with the person in front of you, and you could feel a pretty good draft going down the straightaway, and you could make up three or four car-lengths pretty easy.”
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said in an interview on FS1 Saturday morning that the package could be used in as many as three Cup points races this year to evaluate its possible viability for certain tracks in 2019.
“For us, it’s making sure everybody has had enough time to look at it, has enough time to evaluate it,” O’Donnell said. “If you look back at it, we really only ran it last year at Indy (Xfinity) and the All-Star Race, and this weekend is the first-time in Xfinity at Pocono.
“Taking all that data and evaluating if this is right direction to go is the first step.”
Ragan believes certain minor changes to the All-Star package could facilitate the ability to pass.
“I feel like they’ve got to tweak the package to allow a car that does get a run the ability to get out of line and continue with that run,” Ragan said. “Sometimes, at the All-Star race, a car in front of us would lift, and we would get a run, and you would pull out to pass, and you would still get stalled out.
“I think there are probably some different variations of spoiler height, maybe the front ducts or maybe a gear to tweak. The thought process behind the package would be ideal at some race tracks, but I don’t think it would work at every race track—at some race tracks, we don’t need anything different from what we have now.”