Perhaps it was fitting that Carl Edwards won the Bojangles’ Southern 500 after being such a huge supporter of NASCAR’s decision to try a low-downforce package, especially since the high-drag, higher downforce package appeared to be a failure in both of its outings.
Edwards was the first to address the new package when the cars unloaded at Kentucky earlier this year, and said he was happy that NASCAR listened to the drivers. He also predicted the racing would be even better had there been time to match the tires to the low-downforce package.
Apparently, he was right because he mastered the combination Sunday night at Darlington Raceway.
More importantly, putting Edwards’s win aside, there was action throughout the field – and I don’t mean Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashing within few laps of each other. There was passing, there was bumping/banging (for those who like that sort of thing) and there was hard-driving with cars being pushed to the edge. Hell, we even saw Tony Stewart lead a few laps for a change.
It was almost like a throwback race to the 1970s, sans the leaders lapping the field 13 times and people dying in horrific crashes – you know when everything was so incredible, “back in the day.”
The takeaway from Sunday night should be that the race package provided the most-exciting action on the track in a while. Again, I have never thought of any NASCAR race as being “boring,” but just about anyone could see an improvement. Going forward, NASCAR needs to take what it has learned from Kentucky and Darlington and implement it at other tracks. That being said, kudos to everyone involved for taking chances and trying to see what would and wouldn’t work on the track.
Sometimes you have to fail in order to figure how to succeed, and no, I didn’t come up with that on my own, I stole it from someone in the sport whom I have come to have a great deal of respect for.
Will the low-downforce package work everywhere? The answer to that question, most likely, can’t be found in a simulator, as we have already seen. It has to be tested. The drivers believe the package puts control back into their hands. They would know best, since they are the ones going 200 mph on the track and trying to keep from running into each other or slamming into a wall.
There has been a lot of debate about whether NASCAR should take the low-downforce package and implement it in final 10-race shootout. NASCAR officials said they weren’t going to do that. So be it. At least, next year the naysayers, who criticize the sanctioning body for every little decision it makes, will have one less thing to complain about in 2016.