NASCAR hosted a two-day test with the restrictor plate package at MIS last week; Driver comments with ideas for improvements
The high downforce package was introduced in the NASCAR All-Star race. It brought taller spoilers, larger front splitters and a restrictor plate to Charlotte with the idea of bunching up the field and creating a situation where the leader could run away from the field.
As the restrictor plate package placed a buzz on the NASCAR world, it became apparent that could be the direction of the future for 1.5-mile cookie cutter type tracks. It damn near fixed Charlotte and made the race exciting.
The cars are far less in the driver’s hands. Yet, even Kyle Larson had fun with it. He was one of the many drivers that wasn’t looking forward to the package ahead of the race. After the race Larson said, “I hate to say it but that was fun.”
NASCAR began talking with the industry about bringing the package to another track in 2018. Other talks included a much larger rollout of the package for the 2019 season. But, to do that, it needed to be tested.
They’ve taken the first step to making that happen again in 2018. NASCAR hosted a wheel-force test for the manufactures at Michigan International Speedway. In addition to the regular package, teams also brought machines equipped with the high downforce, restrictor plate package.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series test session took place on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. David Ragan represented Ford, Justin Allgaier was there in a Chevy and Drew Herring brought a Toyota.
“They’ve got a new tire for Michigan, so the manufacturers elected to use one of our wheel-force tests to go up, and we ran some laps with the current aero package, and we ran some laps with the new All-Star package,” Ragan said of the test.
“I felt like, with just three cars there, it’s really hard to get a really good read on what kind of draft you would have, what kind of ability you would have to pass cars.”
“But I felt like it was similar to Charlotte. They cars drove really good. You could stay in the throttle. You felt like you were definitely going slower, but it did create a little bit of a draft, and it bunched everybody up.”
it was pretty easy to stay caught up with the person in front of you
“We only had three cars there, but we did run some together, and it was pretty easy to stay caught up with the person in front of you, and you could feel a pretty good draft going down the straightaway, and you could make up three or four car-lengths pretty easy.”
Using the package on race day in 2018
On Saturday morning, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell commented on the package. He stated the package could be used in as many as three points races in 2018.
Charlotte was not a points race. That means that we could possibly see the package three more times before the end of the year.
“For us, it’s making sure everybody has had enough time to look at it, has enough time to evaluate it,” O’Donnell said. “If you look back at it, we really only ran it last year at Indy (Xfinity) and the All-Star Race, and this weekend is the first-time in Xfinity at Pocono.
“Taking all that data and evaluating if this is right direction to go is the first step.”
Improving the package
The All-Star race has been a racing for new things in recent years. Double file restarts and stage racing were all introduced in the All-Star race. However, when you try a new package it generally isn’t going to be perfect right out of the box.
David Ragan has some ideas for improvement…
“I feel like they’ve got to tweak the package to allow a car that does get a run the ability to get out of line and continue with that run,” Ragan said. “Sometimes, at the All-Star race, a car in front of us would lift, and we would get a run, and you would pull out to pass, and you would still get stalled out.
“I think there are probably some different variations of spoiler height, maybe the front ducts or maybe a gear to tweak. The thought process behind the package would be ideal at some race tracks, but I don’t think it would work at every race track-at some race tracks, we don’t need anything different from what we have now.”