In an attempt to increase the excitement in the Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR announced last October 14th, their new rules package to be applied during 2016 season.
The 2016 Sprint Cup rules package was developed as a result of the extensive testing and the collaborative process between NASCAR and industry stakeholders, who tried to solve a list of complaints race car drivers, and sports fans had, such as the little passing performed by drivers.
As expected, the series will move to a low-downforce aerodynamic package designed to create more passing opportunities for drivers and improve the overall on-track product.
Downforce is a downwards thrust created by the aerodynamic characteristics of a car. The purpose of downforce is to allow a car to travel faster through a corner by increasing the vertical force on the tires, thus creating more grip.
It is the same principle that allows an airplane to rise off the ground by creating lift from its wings, but the force is applied in reverse.
Characteristics of the lower downforce rules package include more off-throttle time for drivers and decreasing corner speeds. This generates more passing zones over the entire track, and allows for multiple tire combinations to be levered.
The package brings along a 3.5-inch spoiler, a .25-inch front leading splitter edge and a 33-inch wide radiator pan. The spoiler in the current aerodynamic package is 6 inches high.
Rear gear ratios for next season will be adjusted to maintain a maximum engine speed of 9,000 RPM and a 1.38 third gear ratio will be used at all tracks smaller than 1.25 miles. The new digital dashboard, which has been optional for teams during the second half of this season, will be mandatory in all vehicles.
Also, each track will continue to feature specific rules, including tire combinations and drive train configurations, to create the best racing for each track length, layout and surface.
The Sprint Cup rules package will be applied on all tracks, with the exception of Daytona International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where the package won’t be utilized.
Along with the downforce changes, several safety updates were also announced: including a double air duct at the right-hand side window, a fire suppression activation system routed to the dash or right-hand side leg board and a seat-belt system that meets higher standards.
New Tire Design Needed
Goodyear, NASCAR’s official tire supplier, will be tasked with constructing a tire that matches up to the new regulations. With less downforce, a softer tire is required to give the driver more grip. Aero is always going to be important, but now the chassis setup is going to play a bigger role plus the way the driver drives the car.
As drivers are more in control of the race, teams will have to develop strategies to work with their aggressiveness and handle the gas and the brakes so that the softer tires will last at least a fuel run.
On the other hand, Goodyear will have to find a delicate balance between tires that have gradual fall-off and those that fail and fall off completely without warning. This way they will be able to create a tire compound that answers to the series regulations and requests.