NASCAR Aims for Improved Short Track Racing With Pivotal Test

Getty Christopher Bell (front) races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

NASCAR will continue the pursuit of improved short track racing. The sanctioning body will hold a two-day test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

UPDATE: Due to the forecast calling for inclement weather, NASCAR has postponed the test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It will now take place on July 31 and August 1 at Richmond Raceway. 

According to a press release, there will be six drivers in attendance for the test on July 17-18. This list includes Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing), Harrison Burton (Wood Brothers Racing), Erik Jones (Legacy Motor Club), William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports, Ryan Preece (Stewart-Haas Racing), and Justin Haley (Kaulig Racing).

What exactly is NASCAR testing? Matt Weaver of Sportsnaut provided the best explanation. It is a new splitter that creates downforce in dirty air and creates lift in clean air. The goal is to help the cars behind the leader have better opportunities to make passes.

NASCAR has taken multiple swings to improve short track racing in the Next Gen era. This is a focus because the early races showed that the car drove too well and stopped too well on the short tracks. Even if a driver made a mistake entering the corner, they could downshift and drive away without losing their spot.

NASCAR made one big change early in the 2023 season. It introduced a new package that reduced the downforce by 30 percent by going to a two-inch spoiler and removing three diffuser strakes and engine panel strakes. This was a step in the right direction, but it did not fully fix the product.

Bell is a Fitting Choice for This Test

GettyChristopher Bell (left) celebrates a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It is critical to have every manufacturer and several teams represented at the New Hampshire test. There will be a variety of viewpoints represented, which should only help NASCAR make decisions about the future of the short track package.

Bell is a fitting choice for this test considering his success at the 1.058-mile track. This includes the 2022 Cup Series race, which he used to punch his ticket back to the playoffs.

Bell also has a perfect streak at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in another series. He has only made three starts at the track in the Xfinity Series, and he has won all three of them while leading a combined 430 laps.

The Oklahoma native knows how to succeed at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, so his opinion will likely carry weight during the two-day test. It will also pair well with the other participating drivers that all have extensive experience competing on shorter tracks in a variety of racing series.

Another Change Takes Place During the Race Weekend

GettyCup Series drivers race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The new “reverse splitter” test will take place after the Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Though there will be another change in place for the race itself.

According to a May announcement, Goodyear will bring softer tires for both sides of the Cup Series cars. The tire manufacturer made the decision after a test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and after hearing comments from participants.

“We went to Loudon just a few weeks back at the end of April and tested,” Goodyear Director of Racing Greg Stucker said at North Wilkesboro Speedway in May.

“We’re going significantly softer on both sides. All the drivers at the test thought it was a big gain, thought it was definitely in the right direction. That’s what we’ll race. Is it enough? We’ll see. I think it’s a good step and then we’ll continue to go from there.”

The Crayon 301 will be the first true test featuring all of the 36 chartered entries, and it will provide key data about whether Goodyear has done enough. If the race delivers, there will likely be calls for this tire compound to make an appearance during championship weekend at Phoenix Raceway.


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