NASCAR continues trend toward lower downforce with 2017 rules

Carl Edwards (Getty Images)
Carl Edwards  (Getty Images)
Carl Edwards (Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – With the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in full swing, driver Carl Edwards hasn’t had time to review or digest the 2017 rules package released to Sprint Cup teams this week.

But Edwards did applaud the continued direction NASCAR is taking with measures that will remove downforce from the cars that race in the sanctioning body’s premier series.

“That sounds good–it’s neat,” Edwards told the NASCAR Wire Service on Friday at Kansas Speedway, host venue to the Hollywood Casino 400 (Sunday, Oct. 16 at 2:15 p.m. ET on NBC), the fifth race in the Chase.

“Anything we can do to take aerodynamic dependency away from these cars I believe makes the racing better and makes it more fun and showcases the driver’s talent and crew chief’s ability to change. That’s good stuff. Less aero-dependency is good, so good job, NASCAR – sounds like it’s going to be fun.”

Highlighted changes to the competition package include a reduction in spoiler height from 3.5 inches to 2.375 inches. The latter figure is .125 inches lower than the test height of 2.5 inches used at Kentucky and in both Michigan races this year.

The spoiler will be 61 inches wide next season, matching current specs, but an increase of eight inches over the spoiler used at Michigan. The wider spoiler should provide greater stability on the right rear of the Cup cars than the 53-inch version.

Other competition changes include a three-inch reduction in splitter size on the outboard regions, as well as tapering of the rear deck fin and mandating changes to suspension construction to achieve a net rear steer of zero.

At the Daytona and Talladega superspeedways, NASCAR is reducing the restrictor-plate from 57/64 inches to 7/8 inches (56/64) to offset gains in horsepower achieved by the Cup teams. Plate sizes, however, are subject to change after final practice, at NASCAR’s discretion.

The weight of superspeedway cars will increase by 20 pounds to accommodate structural changes.

“We gave the teams the package that they will be racing next year, so that they can start to construct their cars for next year’s season,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “It’s basically what we raced in Michigan, with a different-sized spoiler.”

Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR senior vice president of innovation and racing development, said the combination of a smaller spoiler and splitter should reduce downforce on the cars by approximately 500 pounds.

“Our objective here is to get more off-throttle time for the drivers,” Stefanyshyn said. “When you take downforce off, the corner speed will slow down, because you’re off-throttle more.”

From a safety standpoint, NASCAR is introducing an enhanced steering column mounting at all tracks. Anti-intrusion plating and a structural foot box, toe board foam and escape hatches in the roofs of the cars will be mandatory at superspeedways and optional at all other tracks.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.