A prominent discussion during the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season was the level of competitiveness — or lack thereof — at road courses and short tracks. NASCAR has now taken steps to address these complaints.
According to a press release from the sanctioning body, the new package puts a two-inch spoiler on the stock cars and removes three diffuser strakes and engine panel strakes. This will lead to a 30 percent reduction in downforce, which will make the cars more difficult to drive.
“We saw incredible racing throughout the 2022 season, especially at the intermediate racetracks,” said John Probst, NASCAR SVP and Chief Racing Development Officer. “Our goal is to have the best racing possible everywhere we race, so during the offseason, we went to work on adjustments to strengthen the racing on short tracks and road courses.
“Adjustments will be made to the car that will create a significant reduction in downforce, and based on driver feedback and what we saw from the January test in Phoenix, we’re excited to see the results of these efforts.”
The Package Change Affects 11 Tracks
This new rules package will affect several tracks. This list includes ovals in Martinsville Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, and Richmond Raceway.
The road courses will be the Charlotte Roval, Chicago Street Course, Circuit of the Americas, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Sonoma Raceway, and Watkins Glen International.
There are two shorter tracks where this rules package will not be in effect — Bristol Motor Speedway and Dover Motor Speedway. These are also two tracks where NASCAR will not have the wet-weather package available, which includes wipers, rear lights, and rear flaps.
“We wanted to keep it some kind of a rule like, ‘OK, let’s start with a mile and under’ and obviously Dover and Bristol would fall in that category,” Dr. Eric Jacuzzi told NASCAR.com. “The one complication is this year where we have the wet-weather ovals, where we would consider running on rain tires.
“So part of that is they need to essentially have the car prepared like it’s a road-course car. So it’ll have the lights in it. It’s going to have the wiper and the [mud] flaps and everything.
“So a couple of teams and certainly the manufacturers asked us not to include those tracks, Dover and Bristol, because they would essentially create a fourth aero package where they wouldn’t have the flaps and wiper in that.”
There are now three main packages in the NASCAR Cup Series. The first is the superspeedway package for Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta. The second is the intermediate package, which also includes Bristol and Dover. The third is the new short track package with the lower downforce.
The Drivers Will Test This New Package Before Actual Races
Some NASCAR Cup Series drivers tested out multiple proposed package changes ahead of the 2023 season. The first day at Phoenix Raceway featured little progress, but the second day had what NASCAR called “a breakthrough” as the cars slid around more and became harder to control.
The new package is not the exact same due to the removal of the muffler that the teams also tested during the second day at Phoenix Raceway, but it is similar. NASCAR has since taken the new package to the wind tunnel to ensure that the removal of the muffler will not create any further issues.
The new package, largely inspired by the Garage 56 entry, will officially make its debut during the race weekend at Phoenix on March 10-12.
This final weekend of the West Coast swing will also feature an expanded practice session so that the drivers and teams can gain more experience before competing for points. They will take part in a 50-minute session on March 10.