Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Did NASCAR Get the 2018 Rules Package Right?

Earlier this week, NASCAR announced its 2018 rules package. The changes include tweaks to the regulations involving the splitter, spoiler, radiator/oil cooler, fans, cameras, downforce and more.

Did NASCAR do enough with the rules package changes for the 2018 season?

Can’t Please ‘Em All

No matter what NASCAR does, it’ll be scrutinized to no end, and with the newly announced rules package for the 2018 season, the fans are letting them have it.

I understand the majority of the fanbase wants bigger, wholesale changes to the racecars for next season. I understand they want the splitters gone, less downforce, and more wiggle room, among other things. But maybe these changes aren’t the worst thing that could’ve happened.

Everybody’s friend, Jeff Gluck, posted this tweet that summed up my thoughts on the announced changes.

PREACH, JEFF. PREACH!

I’m a NASCAR fan, above all else. So I will lump myself into this targeted group that can’t seem to make up their mind about things the sanctioning body does. But it’s so true.

Stage racing, inspection woes, sitting out practices for failing inspection, lug nut infractions, the list goes on and on and on. The NASCAR fanbase shows no mercy toward the sanctioning body when it comes to the change that seems too often nowadays, whether it be good or bad.

I challenge you to look at the rule changes this way: slow and steady wins the race.

NASCAR is not in a good place right now. There’s no two ways about it. I began watching in the early 2000s, when I was only five-years-old and can faintly remember the old school cars that weren’t aerodynamically glued to the race track, the cars that had no splitters, had the drivers wheeling the hell out of it lap after lap after lap.

2017’s NASCAR has virtually none of that. Is that a good thing? Most would say no, including myself.

But the changes that the fanbase, drivers, teams and industry want aren’t going to happen overnight. They’re going to take two, three, five, (hopefully not, but maybe) even 10 years. Like it or not, getting the racing back to what it was “back in the good ‘ole days” isn’t going to occur in 2018.

Sure, NASCAR could take the splitters off the cars, reduce downforce by a few hundred pounds, get rid of the side skirts and make inspection more lenient for next season. And would the racing improve? Probably so. But would the product on track be more compelling? I would argue no.

Gluck also tweeted that tire compounds and track surface has as much, if not more, to do with the racing as the rules package does. And I couldn’t agree more. Look at Atlanta Motor Speedway compared to Charlotte Motor Speedway or the newly repaved Texas Motor Speedway.

An old, worn out surface that has multiple lines and chews up tires for breakfast, lunch and dinner will produce better racing than a one-groove track that has little to no tire falloff 10 out of 10 times. But that’s neither here nor there, and it’s a conversation for a different day.

Somebody would gain an edge somehow. And they will even when/if the product is what it is as close to what it once was down the road. How do you think Martin Truex Jr. and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team got to the top of the mountain? Spoiler alert: they worked their butts off.

It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t take one year, one change, one decision. Not two, not three, not even four. It took years from the team of brainstorming, trial and error, hiring the right people, putting them in the right positions to succeed and a perfect mix for them to be where they are.

The same goes for NASCAR and these changes for the 2018 season.

That’s why I think these changes are fine. I’m not overly excited about them, it’s hard to be. Especially when NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development Gene Stefanyshyn says there will be “somewhat” of a change next season (via NASCAR.com).

But processes like this don’t happen overnight. Especially one with the gravity of aiming to improve the premier form of North American motorsport.

I challenge you, NASCAR Nation: sit back, relax, try to enjoy the show without complaining every two laps, and let the people who are smarter than you do their jobs. It just might take a little while. – Davey Segal

Changing Everything But What’s Broke

Yes, NASCAR has made overly extensive changes to its rules the past season, but it has continuously failed to fix the things that are actually broken.

In 2017, a lot of changes were made to the cars to drop downforce. Next year’s rules have hardly any changes to the cars. What that means is that the 2018 rules will fail to address the sport’s problems, just as the 2017 rules did.

A widely known fact, not an opinion, but a fact, is that most fans and drivers hate the splitters on the cars. Dale Earnhardt Jr. hates splitters, Parker Kligerman doesn’t care for them, and I straight up loathe them.

NASCAR addressed splitters in its changes for next year: all teams will now use a common flat splitter instead of the custom-built ones teams currently make on their own. That will eliminate some of the gray area that teams often explore when looking for a competitive edge.

I dislike this change partly because NASCAR crew chiefs are some of the most brilliant minds in the world and I truly believe their innovations should be encouraged instead of labeled as cheating. Removing the splitter all together would give crew chiefs more variety for their set ups.

The common flat splitter is just another thing that will hold up cars in the inspection line. Pretty soon, we’ll have races that start with zero cars on the track because everyone is still trying to pass inspection.

More importantly, I hate this change, or lack thereof, because the cars will still have splitters. Get rid of them!

The cars are currently too aerodynamic. They are so aerodynamically engineered that it makes clean air an overwhelming advantage.

That is why you see guys like Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch break out to gigantic leads and drivers hardly pass each other on the track. In the current state of NASCAR, restarts are the only form of passing. Once the cars exit Turn 2 after a restart, absolutely nothing will happen in a race until the next caution.

Ridding us of splitters would create airflow under the cars and slow them down some. This would give cars in the draft a larger advantage than the leader, who would not break out to a five-second lead.

Imagine a race at Kentucky Speedway where the second place driver hounded the leader for the entire race and the whole contest was filled with great battles; wouldn’t that be exciting? It would definitely be more exciting than watching the cars go single-file like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

IndyCar has an aero-package that allows for this type of racing. Watch those cars race at Auto Club Speedway; it is so exciting.

NASCAR would need more changes than just getting rid of the splitter to get like this, but it would be a step in the right direction.

Having a splitter on a car removes the label of it being a stock car. I don’t have a splitter on my car. Could you imagine how much damage a simple speed bump on the street would do to your car at home if you had a splitter?

Ditching the splitter would a huge step towards making the cars more like the ones that the average fan has now. This would make the sport more relatable and attractive.

From what I heard, NASCAR’s excuse for keeping the splitter is that it keeps cars from going airborne. That is a load of bull. There have been numerous incidents since the addition of the splitter where someone wrecked and went airborne. Aric Almirola injured his back because the car lifted off the ground during his Kansas Speedway wreck and slammed back down.

Had Almirola not had a splitter, he would have hit the wreck at a slower rate of speed. He probably would have still lifted off of the ground, but the wreck would not have been as violent because he would not have hit Danica Patrick as hard.

I do not understand why the NASCAR rule makers love splitters so much, but they need to start listening to the fans before they don’t have any left. – Michael Massie

About the author

Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.

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kb

AMEN, the stuff that is broke will not be fixed next year. AERO, is a snorer and a lie in reality. Fake.

NASCAR really does not get it, they really don’t. I wish some teams would tell NASCAR to fluck off and protest. But the reality is the loyal sponsors prohibit such things and teams are loyal to the sponsors. Thank God for them! BRIAN has not a clue!

‘Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”.

Heartbreaking in reality and so easy to see and fix, but the drunks (imo) in CASTLE DAYTONA bask in their perceived greatness, their biggest coup seems to be the fleecing of the networks with billions. BRIAN SAID NETWORKS WANTED THE CHASE, WANTED THE Playoffs, etc. Well Brian…what kinda business man are you to allow those concessions when you would think YOU would know your fans base abhors these gimmicks. You don’t care, you wanted the $$$$$. Choke on them! Good the two idiots deserves each other Brian and the Networks, waiting for Monster to say..SEE YA!

DoninAjax

I can’t wait for the gurus at Monster Energy to say to Brian, “Brian! Our stakeholders have spoken and we won’t be renewing our over-priced contract. Find another sucker…er sponsor.”

kb

I agree!

DoninAjax

“How do you think Martin Truex Jr. and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team got to the top of the mountain?”

Answer: Brian arranged it! Mr. H is not pleased.

Scott Liebert

RE: Changing Everything But What’s Broke

Remember Dover? Kyle Busch ran down and passed Chase Elliott for the win. How many times has Martin Truex come flying through the pack to regain the lead. The smarter, harder working teams will usually prevail.
We are in a technology revolution right now, I don’t see how you are going to stop it.

Tom B

I don’t like the universal rear end gear rule. Let the crew chief/driver make some differences in the type of race they run.
I did not see any specific rule changes for the Toys.

Upstate24fan

I think NASCAR has done what they can do with the Gen-7 car to make it more competitive. It was a car designed from ground up to produce 2000+ lbs of downforce. There is only so much tinkering they can do with the spoiler, spliter, skirts, etc. It appears they are developing a Gen-7 car that is low down/sideforce from the ground up, but they can’t do that overnight due to cost.

Moparjeff

The biggest problem I have with this whole conversation is that NASCAR is designing race cars. I remember IROC – the result of several identical cars is overwhelming boredom. Kind of like what we seen most weekends right now. The ‘good old days’ that people keep reminiscing about were different because the manufacturers designed the basic body shape of the cars and the teams modified them within the limits (theoretically) of the rules. Maybe we should try something like that again.

Lin Hunnicutt

Anyone who thinks that the suits in NASCAR are smarter than their fans must be smoking crack. If they are smarter than this 50 year fan then why are races poorly attended, major sponsors leaving and tv ratings getting worse?

Biff Baynehouse

Gold Star for you Lin!

DoninAjax

You can tell how smart the suits are in Daytona when Brian continually says, “We’re making this change because we know it’s what the fans want.”

Ozark_Lee

I just love all of this crap about “cost savings”. Instead of having a motor in the backup car we have the teams (that can afford it) hiring another dozen specially drilled and practiced mechanics and paying the travel expenses for them.

What happens when you miss a shift in practice and grenade your one engine? I guess you can change it and take a 65 spot grid penalty like the cool kids in Formula 1? Is it just too bad for that weekend, better luck next week?

For all of the whining, things aren’t as bad as everyone is making them out to be. As far as motor-sports goes, this is about as competitive as it gets and that goes across all three tiers. In case nobody was paying attention the truck series has been fantastic all year.

You can make all of the rule changes you want and at the end of the day the best teams with the best drivers are going to outperform the lesser teams with the lesser drivers unless you just start punishing success. I know, if you win then next week you carry and additional 75 lbs of ballast for the rest of the season. If you win again you carry another 75 lbs on top of that.

Just because Brad Keselowski gripes it is not a reason to re-write the rules.

Biff Baynehouse

*unless SuperBrad’s griping is righteous, which seems like a distinct possibility.
And can anyone truly know if races are competitive when Nascar mandates stopping the race every so often for pee-breaks? Seems to me Nascar is no longer does “racing”, & is no longer a motor-sport, but a series of motor-exhibitions.

Biff Baynehouse

Sorry to disappoint you (& Mr. Gluck), & render your negative commentary regarding Nascar’s customers a waste of space, but I think Nascar has done an admirable job with the majority of rules concerning their cars (yes, their cars, bc this is a spec series now-a-days). It’s the gimmick (“chase” & “stage”) formats that have reduced what was formerly the Global epitome of motorsports championships to a Global laughing stock. Until Nascar prioritizes & restores it’s “sports-integrity” (ie: something resembling NORMAL motorsport championship & NORMAL racing formats), their race-car specifications & rules are inconsequential. With thier voluntarily destroying their own sports integrity, it is clear that Nascar aspires to evolve into a meaningless frivolity (ie: Formula Drift rally, Monster Truck rally, etc.). What could possibly go wrong?
Furthermore, in my opinion, insulting fans (whilst in ignorance) doesn’t serve you (or FrontStretch) well, & really only serves to make your ignorance self-evident. The fun part is you call-out Nascar fan-base [ie: YOUR CUSTOMERS] a troll-farm, yet do a pretty convincing job or portraying yourself as a poster-child for that group. Ie: [paraphrasing] “Yota works hard – everyone else slacks”. Ie:, sit back [stupid people], & “let the people who are smarter than you do their jobs.” This is feeble minded, disturbing & offensive commentary that begs the question, if the Nascar front office is so “smart”, why are their brands in such a state of decline & peril? I’ll wait…
Facts check – MANY avid Nascar devotees are: a LOT smarter & apparently MUCH more enlightened than you, have highly advanced educations & professional skills, have held down technically advanced jobs for decades (like Mechanical Engineering, 3D Modeling, CNC programming, CNC station operations, thank you very little), have DECADES of experience & where-with-all in dealing with mechanical engineering & ALL aspects of motorsports (not just Nascar), & do NOT have a motorsports intellect limited to a few years of strictly Toyota-fanboy corporate luxury-box status.
And who is this Mike dude tacked on at the end? Regardless, it is very odd [for Mike] to say it is “fact, FACT” that “most” peeps hate splitters. Especially since, in asserting that so-called fact, he fails to delineate who or what “most” means, & leaves the “haters” characterization an UN-quantified sum. Facts check – that is not a “FACT”. It is an assumption, or wishful thinking, or, as presented in this case… “FAKE NEWS”.
It is also wishful thinking to seriously consider for more than a fleeting moment Nascar will yank splitters from their categories. This is an unrealistic & implausible pipe-dream. Splitters are indicative of motorsport aerodynamics evolution. They are now an integral component of essentially EVERY full bodied race car category in the World (IMSA, WEC, Trans-Am, ARCA, AV8SC, etc., etc., etc…), & are NOT going anywhere, EVER! The recent splitter & spoiler spec changes in Nascar were imposed to reduce aero-dependency (aka: cornering aero-push). They have successfully increased cornering handling parameters, hence increased passing, all-be-it slightly. KY is the best example of this. Personally, the only remotely plausible concept I can image is to implement something resembling a Formula 1 style “drag reduction system” (DRS, which involves modular actuating aero component). But DRS is nothing more than a work around, & does not address aero-dependency in the lest. Aero-dependency is a fact of modern motorsports life, & are born of physics & fluid dynamics, which are just a few of the unbending laws of science that govern humans & their toys. Personally, I don’t think there is much room for improvement in this regard, so I don’t know what you, or anyone’s expectation is. Regardless, “processes like this don’t happen overnight.”

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