New NASCAR rules package to debut at Phoenix Raceway

Something to look for this weekend, a totally new aerodynamic package aims to fix NASCAR short tracks

This weekend, NASCAR unloads in Phoenix Raceway. And there’s a lot to look forward to as a NASCAR fan.

The race this weekend will be the first for an all-new low downforce package. The package is set to be used on most short tracks and all road courses throughout the 2023 season.

New Rule Changes:

– two-inch rear spoiler (a reduction from the current four-inch blade on the rear deck lid)

– removal of three diffuser strakes, engine panel strakes and trimming the diffuser’s outer fencing

NASCAR test at Phoenix: Finding the new package

NASCAR Garage 56 - IMSA - Wind Tunnel
NASCAR Garage 56 – IMSA – Wind Tunnel (Photo: Hendrick Motorsports)

The Garage 56 entry inspired many of these changes. NASCAR put some of these elements in place for day one of a two-day test at Phoenix Raceway. However, it wasn’t enough…

“We put our heads together and we came up with a greatly reduced downforce package,” Jacuzzi said. “Because one of the things that drivers kept saying was that the car — there’s so much tire grip, the brakes are so good. So we said let’s really just take a big swing at this and see if we can solicit a reaction, almost, out of them.”

For the second day of the Phoenix Raceway test, NASCAR took the downforce reduction a step further, at the request of the drivers…

“In those two races, definitely, the cars were noticeably tighter together,” Jacuzzi said.

“They didn’t spread out as far and some of the drivers commented that they were really sliding around a lot, and they feel that the more kind of out of control the car is, the more real estate on the track becomes available to them to use. So that was kind of the feedback that led us to moving forward with this package.”

The new package was asked for by the drivers

The driver universally preferred the low downforce package. Though, many even wanted to try removing the rear spoiler all together.

“I don’t want to speak for them, just anecdotally what they said at the test in our debrief meeting [was it] felt more like a race car,” Jacuzzi said.

“Definitely wasn’t as planted, more able to move around and use all the track. So, a net positive. Of course, some people were a little more hesitant, but the difficulty in those tests is you’re really making big changes and you don’t have infinite practice time.”

“So it tends to be people who aren’t maybe running well at the test don’t like it, obviously, because you don’t want to be running around the back. But I think given enough time to adapt to things and have some prep time, they will be able to respond just like any other weekend.”

Why make changes?

“We’d seen such great racing at the intermediates,” Jacuzzi said, “and then the road courses and the short tracks lacked some of the action we expected. And the comments from the drivers about how good the brakes are and how much grip the tire has, it’s fantastic but we do rely on, from our side, drivers making mistakes and things like that.”

Why are Bristol and Dover excluded?

“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,” Jacuzzi explained. “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. And we said OK, we had some decent events last year. We looked at our metrics and the stats were OK, so we went with that initial conservative approach — just take the industry’s concerns into our minds and kind of wait and see.”

“Certainly, I think if it’s a smash hit this year and we see a big difference, we’ll definitely have to look at it again.”

NASCAR Low Downforce

March 12
Phoenix Raceway

March 26
Circuit of the Americas

April 2
Richmond Raceway

April 16
Martinsville Speedway

May 21
North Wilkesboro Speedway

June 11
Sonoma Raceway

July 2
Chicago Street Course

July 16
New Hampshire Motor Speedway

July 30
Richmond Raceway

August 13
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course)

August 20
Watkins Glen International

October 8
Charlotte Motor Speedway (Road Course)

October 29
Martinsville Speedway

November 5
Phoenix Raceway

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