Monday, July 27, 2015

Indy's High-Drag Rules Package Was... A Drag


“Really Bad.”

“Hard to handle.”


The verdict from the driver’s seat was impossible to ignore following the Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the opinion of virtually anyone clad in nomex, NASCAR’s new high-drag rules package was… well, a drag.

Winner Kyle Busch, who might have been expected to give the new rules at least a half-hearted endorsement, had little good to say. While happy with his ability to draft on the 2.5-mile IMS layout, Busch said the package failed to produce the “pack racing” found at Daytona and Talladega.

“When you got back in traffic… you were horrible,” he said. “It was so hard to handle in traffic. You don’t want to feel like you’re going off into the corner and going to crash every time. You want to have some sort of security. I think there’s something to be learned from today, (but) I’m not sure it’s the right combination.”

Former series champion Matt Kenseth called it “terrible… the worst thing I ever drove on a big track.”

Ninth-place finisher Kyle Larson called it “really bad,’’ with veteran Greg Biffle adding that the low-drag package utilized two weeks ago at Kentucky Speedway was “way, way better.”

Don’t take their word for it, though. The on-track action told a similar tale. While drivers appeared able to run down the leader with more ease than in past seasons, actually passing that leader remained problematic. Kyle Busch’s decisive pass of leader Kevin Harvick with 11 laps remaining came on a restart, and once the field sorted out to single-file, Busch was able to maintain a comfortable margin to the finish.

Granted, Indy has never produced an abundance of lead changes and three-wide racing. Its flat turns and long, fast straightaways have always been better-suited to open wheeled Indy Cars than heavier, boxier NASCAR machinery, and Sunday’s race did nothing to change that dynamic. It wasn't any worse, but it wasn't much better, either.

Sunday’s nine-inch tall rear spoilers created visibility issues, while new rear-bumper extensions prevented hot air from escaping from underneath the cars. Cockpit temperatures topped 140 degrees as drivers struggled to deal with the heat, and Landon Cassill lost more than 10-percent of his 155-pound body weight during Sunday’s race, despite paying special attention to pre-race hydration and drinking a whopping 80 ounces of additional fluids during the event.

In the words of 10th-place finisher Brad Keselowski, “I didn’t see any significant gains.”

NASCAR withheld comment Sunday, preferring to examine the official loop data before delivering a final verdict. In the aftermath of the Kentucky race -- featuring a 132-percent increase in green-flag passes over the previous season -- Indy paled in comparison.

NASCAR intends to utilize its high-drag package once again at Michigan International Speedway in three weeks. In fairness, the MIS oval is significantly different than the Brickyard, and could provide the kind of Talladega-esque pack racing that Chairman Brian France hoped to see this weekend, but did not.

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin offered hope of that Sunday, saying, “This package was really intended for a track like Michigan, more than it was here at Indy.”

Drivers and fans can only hope he’s correct.


  1. Brandon in TN10:30 AM

    Easy fix to Indy. Quit racing there. The track has never produced any good racing. The most intriguing race there was lackluster at best. There are other tracks that will produce far better results.

  2. Anonymous10:32 AM

    Any thoughts on the low attendance this weekend , Dave? I hope it was better in person than it looked on TV. Saturday the place looked flat out empty, and Sunday maybe half-full. Used to be sold out with a waiting list, and a ticket scalpers paradise. What has happened?

    1. It's simple. The racing at Indy has always been marginal. People ignored that as first, in order to be part of the spectacle. But they will not continue to spend money on so-so races.

    2. Anonymous11:21 AM

      Agreed. We were at every Brickyard from the start until about 4 years ago (we have been to 39 500's). The reason is it just wasn't/isn't a good race. For 3 years before we actually quit going, we'd leave with 25 laps left because there was never a pass for the lead in the last 20 laps. Throw the tire debacle in, it just got to enough was enough.

    3. Anonymous11:29 AM

      Dave your absolutely correct. The racing has never been great, barely good. I watched the whole race Sunday and I thought it was really bad, except on the restarts. I wish they would leave Indy and go say to Iowa. I think the racing would be better.

  3. Dwayne in Memphis1:00 PM

    When NASCAR first came to Indy, it was a HUGE story. People found out very quickly that 3,400lb boxcars and flat corners at the end of a 40-mile-long straightaway don't mix very well. The racing has never been good there. I didn't watch yesterday's race, and haven't for years. It's just not worth the chunk of my day...and apparently yesterday (as expected) the rules change didn't fix a thing. Makes me glad that I didn't get my hopes way up and waste another afternoon watching a boring Indy race. I don't blame NASCAR for trying. With NASCAR's normal racing, and the historic Indy track, it could be a great partnership. But right now, the historic brand merger seems to go together like Cheerios and Coca-Cola. Maybe we need to quit trying to make it taste good together...and realize that it just doesn't work.

  4. Anonymous2:59 PM

    Thank you Dave for calling & reporting what it was..A dull fuel mileage aero dependent event..Couldn't be close in a corner(same as has been all aero racing(?)...Hope the engineers enjoyed it I doubt any one else did(well maybe Busch & JGR) ..The fans say no but brian said yes..Notice your blogs not on Jayski today..Perhaps a little nascar help there as brian can't admt he is Wrong...Earner

  5. It was indeed disappointing that there was not the passing we hoped would develop with the larger spoiler etc. The silver linings to come from the 2015 400 was that a drafting effect could be discerned, and also noteworthy was that drivers kept saying their cars were loose behind other cars, an important 180 from the aeropush era's defining cliche "My car pushed real bad in traffic." Those are something NASCAR needs to build on.

    Those criticizing the track layout - flat corners at the end of lengthy straights - need to explain why then Pocono produced some very good racing as late as 2010's two races and also why Ontario Motor Speedway - the exact same layout as Indianapolis - produced memorable stock car racing in its 1970s existence. Simply saying "The racing has never been good (at Indianapolis)" isn't enough.

    The caveat to all these aero packages remains tires. Bias ply-type tires continue to be racier than the radials they've run full-time since the end of 1991; occasionally they've managed to get tires that had at least some of the forgiveness and ability to be leaned on that bias plies have had, seen most recently with the Erik Jones-Kasey Kahne shootout in the Charlotte Truck race in May.

    The low downforce deal may work for tracks like Kentucky and Darlington but places like Indy, Pocono, etc. it's proven low downforce can't work. NASCAR shouldn't overlook the silver linings detected in this Brickyard 400.

    1. Goodyear is not going to build bias ply NASCAR tires, because they don't sell them to the public. Just like nobody is going to build a flathead NASCAR engine.

    2. I didn't say Goodyear would build bias ply NASCAR tires, I said they need the tires they do build to race more like bias plies as they did in the Charlotte Truck race in May.

    3. Dwayne in Memphis11:16 PM

      Thank you, Dave. You beat me to the bias ply argument. I miss them, too...but they're not coming back.

      As for Pocono, the front stretch barrels off into Turn 1...Turn 1 being banked at 14 degrees. All 4 Indy corners are 9. Granted that Pocono's other 2 turns are 8 and 6 - but the speeds in those are not nearly what Pocono's are going into Turn 1, then Indy has another flat corner and another REALLY long backstretch. It's essentially a "Swole Up" Martinsville...but with too much speed to work with too much mass. Oh, and even Martinsville has 12 degrees of banking.

      Both tracks are 2.5 miles, and the stock record laps are 5 mph different. Pocono's fast lap is 183 and some change and Indy is 188 and some change. SO you have high speeds and higher banking, and the lower speeds have the flatter banking depending on where you are on the track at Pocono. It's super speedway and short track at the same time when you figure the speeds of the cars at Turn 3 and the speeds of the cars entering Turn 1. Indy is a one-size fits all track configuration, and it doesn't fit a stock car.

      SO, other than saying "they're two different tracks", there's not much other justification. Different tracks, different banking, and different configurations. Watkins Glen is 2.5 miles with 0 degree banking, too. But not nearly the momentum to try and get slowed down and turned with no banking help since the speeds aren't what they are at Indy. So we can't compare that one, either.

      Oh, and did I forget to mention that Pocono ranges from 60-100 feet wide, while Indy is only 50-60 feet wide? Less racing room to make those turns at those high speeds with car that heavy.

      So it's two different tracks. Pocono produces some decent racing, while Indy never has with a Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup Car. That's not to say some people really, really like it. But for the vast majority of NASCAR fans, it's just not good racing.

    4. It seems most people, (besides Monkeesfan, Mike Mulhern, and myself) have reasoned that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway cannot have good stock car racing because it is a layout that was designed for open wheel championship car racing. However, they also seem to forget or ignore that the Ontario Motor Speedway, a copy of Indianapolis that was slightly wider and I believe had slight banking in the short chutes, had some very good and compelling stock car racing during the years it was in operation. However, I think if Ontario was still in existence and on the Cup schedule, the racing there would be similar to what most fans have been accostomed to seeing at Indy. My reasoning behind that is simple: Pocono and Michigan, both superspeedways with flatter banking, also had great racing from the 70s to the mid 80s. While there have been some races that have had good racing, for the most part, overall since the mid 80s the Cup Series at these two tracks (and later Indy) haven't really had much good racing.

      These tracks haven't seen much good racing because the cars have changed so much since then, with the draft having lost a lot of significance. The cars have evolved in speed and other areas so much that it's hard for 43 stock cars at 3400 pounds to really sustain side by side racing or be able to hunt each other down and not be hindered by the aero push. That tells me that it isn't so much the track as it is the current car that can't race nearly as well as previous iterations. It now looks bad because these low banked superspeedways can't handle 3400 pound cars with a high center of gravity at trap speeds of around 200 MPH into the corners. Pocono and Michigan now barely pass the eye test, Indy has failed. But it's not the fault of the tracks. Certainly, if the older generations of the Cup cars could race on the big tracks that many consider to be mediocre or inferior to other styles of racing like short tracks, then the current cars should be able to as well, if not better.

      One stat that fails to get mention more often concerning the big tracks is lead changes. By looking at Racing Reference, one can see that Michigan, Ontario and Pocono had more official lead changes in the 1970-1985 era of the NASCAR Cup Series than they have had since then (substitute Indy after 1994). I'm not saying we should have three abreast battles for first, or any other position, every lap. As long as a driver can up through the field and can pass a car by effectively using the draft, and the driver being passed can fight back by side drafting or re-passing, then that's good racing to me. This is how racing should be defined at tracks 2 miles and greater in length, and even at the 1.5 mile tracks too.

  6. Anonymous6:31 PM

    Drop Indy for Road America in the Chase.

  7. Anonymous7:19 PM

    The next aero package they bring to Indy should be open wheel, with wings, and rear mounted engines. Short of that, they should not return.