Senior staff writer
Dale Earnhardt Jr. likes what NASCAR is doing by ordering different aero packages for specific racetracks, but owner-driver Tony Stewart does not.
After a two-day test at Chicagoland Speedway last week, Earnhardt commmented, “I’m excited to see what happens – whether this stuff works, fails, whatever – but it’s fun to go through it. This is a big deal really, to change the whole thing for everybody at this track and then try something so extreme at another track.”
Stewart, who is a four-team Sprint Cup team owner with industrialist Gene Haas, wants NASCAR to help the owners financially when the sanctioning body makes aero package changes during the season.
“The part that’s hard for the teams is the process, you know, changing this, changing that,” Stewart said. “All that cost comes out of our pockets. It doesn’t come out of NASCAR’s pocket. NASCAR decides they want to change something, we’re the ones that have to spend the money to do it.
“I think all the owners will do whatever’s in the best interest of making it better. I would like to see NASCAR share some of the expenses.”
NASCAR executive Chris O’Donnell announced several weeks ago that aero packages would change for races at Indianapolis and Michigan, with a higher rear spoiler and other alterations for more drafting and hopefully more passing. A shorter rear spoiler was well received by most competitors after being implemented for the July 11 race at Kentucky Speedway.
Drivers are definitely talking about Indianapolis, where more passing is needed.
“It (taller rear spoiler) is really extreme and should really alter the racing and what it looks like there,” Earnhardt said. “What’ll it look like, I don’t know; but it’s not going to be the same. Fans are going to tune in to see that, whatever it is that happens. That’s great.”
Drivers have urged NASCAR to put more of the driving of a 3,250-pound stock car in their hands, particularly after the development of the Gen.-6 look-alike cars and changes since. They want a stock car that’s harder to handle.
Five-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon is taking a wait-and-see attitude about changes at Indianapolis. He noticed little change in the stock cars at Kentucky when they were racing side by side.
Joey Logano was the most diplomatic among drivers at Kentucky Speedway while discussing the rules for the Brickyard. “Hopefully, we can make the runs and be able to see cars draft up and be able to pull out,” said the Team Penske driver. “We’re talking a 9-inch spoiler, and that’s huge. That thing’s going to be pushing a boulder through the air. We’re going to be wide open a lot.
“Obviously, horsepower is going to show a lot when we go to a racetrack like that. And obviously a lot of people will obviously be trying to trim their cars out with that much drag on the cars. There’s a lot of unknowns, but directionally, we got to try something different there because that’s one of our most important races of the year.”
With a past history of few passes on the track, drivers know the importance of putting on a competitive race Sunday in the Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard.
Logano pointedly said, “We can’t afford to have a bad show, and I feel like we have had some not very good racing there (Brickyard) in the past. You look at Indy cars, that’s one of their best races because they can draft down the straightaways. I think that’s what we’re going to try to do at a track like that.”
However, with all aero package changes in the works for selected tracks, drivers do not want any such changes once The Chase starts Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway.