Since 2015, NASCAR has looked at making the racing product better in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. NASCAR tested a lower downforce package at Kentucky and Darlington due to pleas from drivers, while NASCAR chose to use a higher drag package at Michigan and Indianapolis to try things their way.
After much consideration, NASCAR chose to go the way the drivers wanted, a lower downforce package. From 2015 to 2016, NASCAR reduced downforce from 2,700 pounds to 2,000 pounds.
In 2016, NASCAR tested an even lower downforce package at Kentucky and Michigan. After a few minor tweaks, downforce was reduced by 500 pounds.
Has this reduction of downforce made the racing in 2017 better? Let’s take a look at the first seven races of the season! The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has went to every style of racetrack from a superspeedway to a short track and from an old abrasive surface and a newly repaved surface.
The numbers are rather shocking.
The number of green flag passes at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2016 was 3,717. In 2017, that number was 2,811. That is a difference of 27.7574%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was 2210. In 2017, the number was 1,927. A difference of 3.6814%
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Phoenix Raceway was 686. In 2017, the number was 1,026. The number of green flag passes was up by 39.7196%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Auto Club Speedway was 3,346. In 2017, that number was 2,707. A difference of 21.1135%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Martinsville Speedway was 1,207. In 2017, that number was 1,725. The number of passes was up 35.3342%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Texas Motor Speedway, under the old pavement and configuration, was 2,733. In 2017, under the new pavement and configuration, the number of passes was 1,894. The difference is 36.2654%.
Early on in the season the eyeball test showed some issues within this package. Speedway Digest asked Denny Hamlin and AJ Allmendinger what they would change based on the eyeball test and numbers.
“I would just like them to stop changing stuff. It’s tough on us. I thought way at the end of last year I think we had six top 10’s in eight races and we had finally kind of gotten a feel of the aero package of what we needed and had some good race cars when it came to set-up and knowing how we wanted to set them up and they keep changing. I think that is what’s tough here,” said Allmendinger. “Right away we all jump to conclusions that ‘oh it’s not good enough we’ve got to change again.’ You’ve just got to give teams time. The bigger teams, every time you change an aero package the bigger teams are going to succeed in that because they have the wind tunnel time. You would think it would bring the field closer everybody starting over again, well it just separates the field even more because the bigger teams have the more resources to go wind tunnel test and figure out the aero package a lot quicker than other teams do. It’s five races, we all just need to calm down a little bit and give it a whole year and see if it’s working or not and then make a decision after that, but we don’t need to jump to that conclusion after five races.”
Hamlin, who is a member of the Driver’s Council, had this to say about the aero package in 2017 and what changes he would advocate for.
"Well, I think we've had a relatively small sample size. I think that we've had probably fewer cautions than what we've had in the past, and that doesn't help the passes, the green flag passes, because you have jumbling up on pit road, faster cars have a bad pit stop, they've got to come back through the field, so that part of it hampers passing a little bit. It would be interesting to revisit that probably mid to later in the season,” said Hamlin. “But I think overall, the racing itself has been very, very good. We've seen battles for the lead every single week. So overall, we've been pretty happy with it. Corner speeds are down, which is good. That's something that we wanted. There's been more tire falloff this year, which has been good. That's what we wanted. So I think we're heading in a good direction. But early in seasons, there's some teams that are on top right now that are very hot and their cars are fast, and it's going to take a while for the competition to catch up. When they catch up, fields get tighter, more passing happens."
At this point in 2016, there were talks about a lower downforce aero package being used at the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. However, in 2017, the rumor mill has been silent about potential changes in the aero package.
FONTANA, Calif.— Joey Logano was hoping to have a picture perfect day At Auto Club Speedway in Southern California. However, when the Service King 300 began, the day saw its highs and lows.
Logano started from the pole position to lead 31 laps in the opening stage. However, the caution flew for a spin by Matt Tifft on lap. Logano led the field down pit road for four tires and fuel. Logano beat the field off pit road. However, Logano was caught for speeding on pit road in sections two through nine.
Logano was in shock that he was caught speeding. Because the cars of not have speedometers, drivers rely on the RPM’s when they enter pit road. NASCAR allows a five mile per hour tolerance for speeding on pit road.
Logano started at the tail end of the longest line in the 35th position.. When the race restarted, Logano began his charge towards the front.
He worked his way towards the second position at the conclusion of the second stage.
When the third stage began, Logano was running up front before more trouble on pit road plagued him.
Logano has more trouble on pit road towards the end of the race. On the pit stop, the jack fell off on the left side with all the tires off of the car. The team had to petition NASCAR to allow them to use a second jack to jack the car up. The request was granted and the team finished the pit stop.
Logano and his crew chief were not happy with what occurred on pit road, but were happy they stayed on the lead lap and suffered minimal damage.
Logano started at the end of the lead lapped cars in 25th., but once again, quickly moved towards the front. When the caution flew for a hit by Cole Custer, the leaders pitted and Logano moved up to third position.
On the restart, he gave Kyle Busch a push to move to the second position. He kept pushing and battling Busch for the lead for a couple laps. Logano was able to grab the lead with 32 laps remaining and set sail.
Logano used Busch as a cushion from Kyle Larson. Larson was on fresher tires than Logano. Busch made contact with the wall and dropped back moving Larson to second. Larson was closing in about two-tenths every lap. Larson grabbed the lead for a moment, but Logano grabbed it back.
After Logano grabbed the lead, Larson hit the wall, but lost momentum. When the momentum was regained by Larson, he made his charge back to Logano. However as they battled for the lead, the lapped car 99 went in front of Logano slowing him down.
Luckily, the caution flew for Brandon Jones, who hit the wall. On the pit stop, Logano took four tires and fuel, but lost one position as Spencer Gallagher only took two tires and fuel.
On the restart, Larson took the high side leaving Logano with Gallagher in front of him. Gallagher did not go on the restart. Logano was boxed in, but was able to get past Gallagher. Logano battled with Busch, but cleared him as Busch did not have the short run speed. Logano had momentum in the closing lap to get the win, but came up 0.127 seconds short to finish second.
“I don’t know about that move. That wasn’t a good move. I don’t know what they were thinking, but that maybe wasn’t the best play at this race track. I knew he was gonna spin them,” said Logano about being boxed in by Gallagher. “There’s no way he couldn’t. It wasn’t his fault. He was a sitting duck and I was a sitting duck behind him that lost too much track position on that restart being too far behind Kyle. If not for that, we would have probably been door-to-door across the line bumping and banging or something. We were able to catch Larson the last few laps. We were definitely faster, but I needed another lap, maybe two.”
When Logano was asked about how he made the moves from back to the front, he stated, “More throttle and less brake usually makes you go faster. It was just getting in the right line at the right time and keeping the momentum. That’s what this XFINITY racing is – and anytime you go to a big two-mile race track it’s all about mo and keeping that momentum going and we were able to keep that rolling while the cars were side-by-side and stuff like that. We were able to keep the momentum going.”
Logano finished second giving the No. 22 Team Penske Ford 33 owner points, moving the team to 33 points ahead of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing entry. Logano lead the Service King 300 six times for 70 laps.
FONTANA, Calif.— Despite hitting the wall numerous times during the Service King 300, Kyle Larson scored the victory at Auto Club Speedway, holding off Joey Logano.
“That was a lot of fun. I wish that last caution wouldnt have come out because it would’ve been easier for me to win, I think. I honestly didn’t think we would be here yesterday,” Larson told Fox Sports 1 in victory lane.
This is Larson’s sixth victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. This is also his second victory at Auto Club.
The first stage was all about Logano, who led 31 of the 35 laps in the stage. The caution flew for a spin by Matt Tifft with five laps remaining in the stage. Everyone pitted, except for JJ Yeley. When the race restarted with one lap remaining in the stage, Yeley dropped back to 25th. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Elliott Sadler finished second, Larson finished third, Erik Jones inished fourth, and William Byron rounded out the top-five.
In the second stage, Larson quickly jumped to the lead for seven laps before getting passed by Busch, who used the side-draft. Busch would go on to dominate the second stage. Logano finished second, E. Jones’s finished third, Larson finished fourth, and Sadler finished fifth. Larson came off pit road behind Busch, but was caught speeding on pit road sending him to the tail end of the field to start the final stage.
As the third stage began, Busch quickly claimed the lead, but continued to be challenged by Logano. For Larson, he was working his way back towards the front following his speeding penalty. Despite a debris caution early in the stage, Logano and Busch battled for the lead. Logano was able to grab the lead using the side draft on Busch. However, when the caution fell for a hit by Paul Menard on the fronstretch, the race for the lead changed. Logano spent more time on pit road due to the car falling off the jack. On the restart, Busch chose the bottom lane, but didn’t get the momentum giving Larson the lead momentarily. When the caution flew for an accident involving Cole Custer, everyone but Busch pitted. Busch chose the inside lane on the restart. Logano was able to gain the lead with 32 laps remaining in the race. Busch began to fall back due to hitting the wall, moving Larson to second. Larson began to reel in Logano to reach his bumper with less than 20 laps remaining. Logano and Larson battled for the lead, but Larson hit the wall loosing momentum. When the momentum returned for Larson, he was able to pass Logano while hitting the wall and using the lapped car of David Starr. The caution flew with nine laps remaining. As the leaders hit pit road, Larson won the race off pit road as Spencer Gallagher came out second by taking only two tires. Larson chose the outside lane, which would ultimately be the move to win the race, putting Gallagher on the bottom in front of Logano. While Gallagher did not get a good start and Busch did not have the short run speed, Larson was able to set sail and win the race.
Logano finished second, Busch finished third, E. Jones finished fourth, and Byron rounded out the top-five. Darrell Wallace Jr. scored his fourth consecutive sixth place finish, Sadler finished seventh, Brennan Poole finished eighth, Justin Allgaier finished ninth, and Ty Dillon rounded out the top-10.
The race was slowed seven times for 42 laps. The lead changed 18 times among six drivers. The margin of victory for Larson was 0.127 seconds.
Next up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is an off weekend before heading to Texas Motor Speedway on April 8th at 1:30 p.m. EST for the My Bariatric Solutions 300. FOX and Performance Racing Network will have the broadcast.
FONTANA, Calif.— Joey Logano will start from the pole in today’s Service King 300 at Auto Club Speedway. This is Loganos first pole of 2017 and 32nd of this career. Daniel Hemric, in his Auto Club debut, will start from the outside of the front row.
In the first round, Hemric was fastest at 182.145 mph , Logano was second at 191.310 mph, Kyle Larson was third at 181.264 mph, Cole Custer was fourth at 181.132 mph, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five at 181.128 mph.
Numerous notable drivers did not advance to the second round. Those drivers include Elliott Sadler (P14), Kyle Busch (P16), and Justin Allgaier (P20)
In the second round, Logano posted a speed of 182.446 mph to grab the pole. Hemric posted a speed of 181.658 mph. E. Jones will start third at 181.470 mph, Custer will start fourth at 180.955 mph, and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five at 180.576 mph.
The Service King 300 from Auto Club Speedway is scheduled to start at 4:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.
FONTANA, Calif.— The NASCAR Xfinity Series rounds out the “West Coast Swing” before having a weekend off at Auto Club Speedway for the Service King 300. This is the fifth race of the season.
42 drivers are scheduled to arrive in Fontana to compete for 40 spots. Seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are scheduled to compete on Saturday. The Service King 300 also is the return to NASCAR competition for Casey Mears, who is driving for Biagi DenBeste Racing.
There have been 27 races for the Xfinity Series at Auto Club. 17 different drivers have won a pole, while only 16 different drivers have won a race. Only five drivers have won from the pole position with Kyle Busch being the last driver to do back in 2013. HThe race record was set back in 2001 by Hank Parker Jr. at 155.957 mph. The qualifying record was set back in 2005 by Tony Stewart at 185.941 mph.
Many drivers are pumped to be heading back to Auto Club for the yearly visit.
“I’m very much looking forward to going to Auto Club Speedway with our BRANDT Professional Agriculture team. It’s fun, it’s fast and it’s slick. I think that when you add those three words together it makes for great racing. Even if you’re not having a great day, you still have fun there. It’s one of those places though where you better be on your A game. You better makes sure that when practice is over, you’re happy, because if not it can be a long afternoon,” said Justin Allgaier, last week’s race winner.
"Auto Club Speedway has become one of those places that I am cautiously excited about. I just don't know much about it because I have never seen it and have never been there, other than what I've seen on TV. I've been talking with my teammates about it leading up to this week. Austin Dillon won the XFINITY Series race there last year, so he has been a big resource. He has provided me with some insight into what to look for and what you can and can't do. At a place like that, you can study for months, but then you get there and still have things that catch you off guard. I've been putting a lot of focus on Auto Club Speedway and trying to figure out what makes the racetrack what it is, and the surface is probably the first thing that pops up. As fast and big as the track is, the amount of grip isn't that good, so it puts a lot back in the driver's hands. The field is spread out from the fence to the apron, and as a racer that is cool. To have never run at a place that big and that fast and have that kind tendency to it, I'm really pumped up,” Daniel Hemric stated.
“We had a solid run last season here in Fontana, finishing third. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back there this weekend with our Leidos Mustang and try to follow that up and maybe get a couple spots better. We’ve gotten off to a great start in 2017 and I’m confident we can keep that momentum going on Saturday,” said Darrell Wallace Jr., who has a run of top-six finishes over the past few weeks.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will qualify on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1. The Service King 300 will air on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1 at 4:00 p.m. EST.