NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell praises improvements in short-track package

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 08: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Alliance Parts Ford, leads the pack during the NASCAR Cup Series FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 08, 2020 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Sunday’s FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway passed not only the eye test but also the statistical test, as far as the quality of racing was concerned.

With the NASCAR Cup Series car featuring a significantly small spoiler and modifications to the oil pan and splitter, the resulting reduction in downforce produced far more competitive racing than fans witnessed in two Phoenix events last year.

There were 20 lead changes among seven drivers on a track that featured a more liberal application of traction compound in the corners, as NASCAR worked to make the 2020 short-track package as compelling as possible.

“You certainly want to see a lot of what we saw today—a lot of different lead changes,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “And this comes from a lot of work from the entire industry, going back to Nashville (in the postseason), everybody getting together and talking about what could we collectively do…

“We saw a lot of different things happen during the race and emotions run pretty high, which is what you want, and a lot of comers and goers—and ultimately a really good race.”

Greg Engle