When the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup starts on Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway, drivers and crew chiefs won’t have to worry about changing aerodynamic pages and different rules for different race tracks.
The same rules in force at open-motor tracks at the start of the 2015 season will remain in place throughout the Chase, Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told reporters on Friday night at Michigan International Speedway, the site of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
“We're going to stay with the 2015 package,” O’Donnell confirmed after a meeting at MIS in which drivers and crew chief were given the same news. “We've seen some good things with that package.
“A lot of work has been done by the race teams already leading up to the final 10 races, and we feel like that's the best decision for the sport.”
In the summer months, NASCAR has experimented with different aerodynamic packages, introducing a low-downforce configuration with a shorter rear spoiler at Kentucky Speedway and a higher-drag package with a taller spoiler at Indianapolis.
Sprint Cup Series cars are racing with the high-drag package this weekend at Michigan, and the low-downforce setup will return at Darlington in early September, but NASCAR is using those races to inform decisions on 2016 rules, not with an eye to changing packages for the 10-race Chase playoffs.
“I think it's important to go back and look at what our original plan was, and that was Kentucky, Michigan and Darlington,” O’Donnell said. “Then we looked at Indianapolis, too, to try to apply the Michigan package. So our messaging all along was that we had the intention of keeping the Chase where it was with the 2015 rules package.
“In some of the dialogue, some of the folks wanted to push forward potentially, but when we looked at all the things that have been done, the preparation that's been done, the amount of work our industry has put into these races, which we truly appreciate, we think we're going to have the best racing for the fans with the 2015 package for all 10 races.”
At Talladega, however, where restrictor plates are used to lower horsepower significantly, there may be a change from the competition package. That’s a reaction to the violent crash that sent Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet into the frontstretch fence on the final lap of the Daytona race in July.
“There probably will be (changes to the Talladega rules),” O’Donnell said. “We're still having some discussion with the industry heading into Talladega. Have not settled on anything yet, but I think you can anticipate something.”