Kyle Busch's comments after Dover last week caught my attention. His comments were probably the most tumultuous we have heard about the 2019 rules package. It's no secret Kyle is not afraid to speak his mind, I have compiled a list of quotes from the man himself complaining about aerodynamic issues throughout the years 2/3 of the way down the article.
Here is a run down on what you're about to read:
First, you will read various sections of articles throughout the past 20+ years dealing with specifically aerodynamic issues and driver complaining. We start off in 1998, NASCAR's "golden days" as described by some folk. The drivers were constantly wailing about how terrible the cars are in traffic. NASCAR took downforce away from the cars before the year started in what was called the "five-and-five" rule. Designed to make cars harder to drive and create more passing. That didn't work out as intended, thus began an unrelenting chase for the perfect mixture of drivability and limiting aerodynamic issues in traffic.
The middle of the article is a compilation of Kyle Busch complaining about aerodynamics from near the beginning of his career to as recent as last week. Also included is an interesting Kevin Harvick quote and a quote straight from TRD's Executive Engineering Technical Director, Andy Graves.
The end of this article is a brief rundown of rule changes made to the cars from 2001-2019. Everything but the kitchen sink was thrown at these cars for 2 decades.
Hours and hours of work went into what you're about to read. Please enjoy.
November 3rd, 1998.
NASCAR officials announced Monday that all car makes will run higher spoilers and longer front air dams at Sunday's season-finale in Atlanta. The aerodynamic changes were made to make the competition closer, as well as slow the cars down.
Those changes will give the cars more drag, making it more difficult for them to cut through the air, which slows them down.
But the main reason for the rule modification was to give the cars more downforce, which makes them stick to the track more and handle better through the turns. As a result, NASCAR is expecting better side-by-side racing.
Some drivers just couldn't get used to the rule change NASCAR made before this season, called the "five-and-five" rule because it called for a 5-inch spoiler and 5-inch air dam clearance. NASCAR implemented the rule to take away some of the cars' handling and make drivers more tentative about making bold moves on the track. Some drivers, however, thought the change was too drastic, making the cars too hard to control in traffic.
"This will make the cars more stable. It will bring side-by-side racing back into the sport," said Larry McClure, general manager of the No. 4 Chevy, driven by Bobby Hamilton. "And it will get rid of some of these boring races.
July 12th, 2003.
A few years ago, when NASCAR rules mandated a big rear deck-lid spoiler, that device generated a lot of drag and downforce at the rear of the car. The teams complained of push, understeer, because there was no downforce at the front of the car to balance that from the spoiler. Over a period of several years NASCAR allowed the teams to develop body shapes at the front of the car that generate more downforce.
Before these changes NASCAR Winston Cup cars generated about 500 lbs. of downforce total. Due to the big deck-lid spoiler and the changes at the front a good body now puts out 1,500 lbs. of downforce.
February 15th, 2004.
>>> NASCAR hopes new aero-dynamic rules create better racing. Cars will run 32 of the 36 Nextel Cup races (the four at Daytona Beach and Talladega the exceptions) with shorter rear spoilers and softer Goodyear tires. Spoilers now measure 5.5 inches, down from 6.25 inches. The change will reduce downforce, which will trim speeds and create more stability. That will force drivers to actually drive their cars instead of simply aiming them.
How will that impact Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons? Some expect veterans like Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace, Sterling Marlin, Mark Martin, the Burtons and the Labontes to adapt quicker. After all, they raced in the "old days," when stock car racing wasn’t simply an oversized video game. Others say younger drivers—ones who don’t know any better—won’t be as skittish when cars become a handful. "Guys with experience and finesse will be better off," Roush said. "It’ll be a breath of fresh air." Martin, a NASCAR regular since 1988, warned against assuming that. "Mostly it’ll benefit the best teams because they always adapt quicker," he said. "Don’t read too much into it, because they’re subtle changes. But they’ll bring racing back to where it needs to be."
March 4th, 2005
So far, not too many drivers are happy with NASCAR’s new aerodynamic rules.
Beginning with last Sunday’s race at California Speedway, the Nextel Cup cars had a new aero package in place that included a shortened rear spoiler and softer tires.
The new spoilers and tires will be used everywhere except Daytona and Talladega, the only tracks where NASCAR slows the cars with horsepower-sapping carburetor restrictor plates.
NASCAR’s intention in sawing off an inch on the rear spoilers — down to 4 1/2 inches — and asking Goodyear to provide tires that wear quickly is to create less of a dependence on downforce while placing more of an emphasis on a driver’s ability to race his car, especially through the turns.
John Darby, NASCAR’s Nextel Cup director, said one race is too soon to tell if the changes will work. A lot of drivers were certain they won’t.
The most vocal critic of the new rules was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had a miserable day in the Auto Club 500, fighting handling all day and spending considerable time in the pits after having three flat tires. He finished 32nd in the 43-car field.
“I don’t think that makes any sense to take that (inch) off and say it’s going to make it better running side-by-side,” Junior said. “Somebody’s got to wake up here, you know what I mean? The lightbulb’s got to come on.
“Taking the spoiler off is going to make it more difficult to drive. The softer tires give us more grip, so it (goes fast) and then it falls off. That’s OK. That’s not a bad idea. But we need some more downforce.”
Jamie McMurray, who finished fourth, said he, too, is not a big fan of the spoiler rule.
“It’s really hard to pass,” McMurray said. “When you get up underneath the guy, you get tight and you have to put so much wheel in it that you get loose. Then you don’t have anything back there to help you.”
Greg Biffle somehow drove from midpack to the lead twice during the race, then held onto a very loose car at the end to grab the victory at California.
“They took a half-inch away last year and then to take a whole inch was a pretty bold change,” Biffle said. “I don’t know about anyone else’s car — my car was real bad behind other cars. If I’m coming up through there and I could get maybe six car-lengths from McMurray, I stalled out. I couldn’t do anything, and it was just one car by itself.
“It’s the same problems that we always have when you’re behind another race car.”
April 3rd, 2007 (Written Pre-COT)
Aero push has become almost the dominant feature of NASCAR races. Fans have complained that racing has lost some of its appeal, as riders remain in fixed positions for long stretches at a time. Drivers challenge each other less, riding in tight single-file rather than side by side. On the positive side, a greater number of vehicles can stay near the leader of the pack.
Aero push -- and all of racing aerodynamics, for that matter -- is all about the downforce
(We all know about the aero problems that came with the Car of Tomorrow. It only amplified the problems that had accumulated over the years as NASCAR became a sport of engineers. I need not to link to any articles. Tweets will suffice.)
November 22nd, 2009. (Full blown COT)
April 28th, 2012. (Spoiler and rounded front nose COT)
May 22nd, 2012 (Gen 6 Toyota introduced)
May 21st, 2015 (Following 2 years of high df/ high hp, 2015 saw less hp/ less df)
September 2nd, 2018 (NASCAR gave fans & drivers low downforce for 3 years, oh look same problem)
May 6th, 2019 (The Kyle Busch quote that made me do all this research)
As we can see, none of this is new. Drivers have bitched about how race cars drive in traffic for AT LEAST 21 years. Getting the cars off the ground and taking off the splitter isn’t going to magically solve everything. By the end of the Gen 4 cars run (2007) it produced an incredible amount of aero problems. Why is that? As NASCAR became mainstream, more money was pumped into it. Team Owners spent that money trying to go faster. Teams hired engineers and aerodynamic specialists to produce the fastest racecar they can. Over the final years of the Gen 4 car, you can notice an incredible change in the shape of the body. These cars became downforce and side force machines designed to go fast by themselves. Unfortunately, as the cars got faster with innovation by the teams, the racing itself suffered. This is not a Gen-6 problem or a Car of Tomorrow problem. This is a basic understanding of aerodynamics problem. You don’t have to be an engineer to understand basic aero effects. You feel it driving down the highway behind a semi at 70mph. Your car will literally shake and waddle without you moving the steering wheel a fraction of an inch. The faster you go, the more that effect is magnified. We tried low downforce. The cars had the least amount of downforce they had in 15 years from 2016-2018. Sure, there were some great moments, but there were some great moments with high downforce in 2014 too, which is and was commonly referred to by fans as the best season of racing in years. Rose colored glasses perhaps? That’s probably what’s happening here. NASCAR’s theory in 2019 is this: taking away horsepower and adding downforce will slow the cars down significantly on the straightaways due to less throttle response and a ton more drag. In turn, the cars are going faster in the corners thanks to these changes. The thought is even though they are going faster in the corners with all the additional downforce on the cars, being easier to drive them would negate the effects of the dreaded aero push. We haven’t exactly seen that. In conclusion, let’s look at ALL the rule changes from the year 2001 on.
Notable rule changes to cars.
2001: Individual spoiler and air-dam adjustments for each manufacturer.
2002: Individual spoiler and air-dam adjustments for each manufacturer.
2003: Common templates are introduced to close the gap between manufacturers. And stop the games being played.
2004: The spoiler reduced from the current 6.25in to 5.5in. NASCAR reduced spoiler from 5.5in to 5in halfway through the year.
2005: Spoiler reduced from 5in to 4.5in. Goodyear brings softer tire. Inspection gets tighter.
2006: No major rule changes. Inspection process gets even tighter / penalties stronger.
2007: No major rule changes. Car of Tomorrow Introduced and ran at multiple races.
2008: Drivers plead for changes to COT, no big changes made. NASCAR lessens amount cars can be yawed
2009: Side skirts start to be extended.
2010: Wing replaced by 4in Spoiler. Quarter panels extended 4 inches. “Shark fin” added to left side of car to help keep car on the ground when crashing.
2011: New rounded nose replaced splitter braces. Splitter size reduced 30%. NASCAR announces a new car debuting in 2013. Most statistically-competitive season in the 63-year history of the Sprint Cup Series.
2012: EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) introduced. Small changes to reduce downforce and sideforce implemented halfway through season.
2013: “Gen-6” car replaces COT. Downforce numbers are way higher. 7in spoiler and downforce/side force built into bodies. Laser inspection system debuts, rule book continues to tighten.
2014: Downforce increased with larger spoiler and radiator pan and new shaped splitter. Ride height rule eliminated.
2015: Tapered spacer implemented. Horsepower cut from 850 to 725. Spoiler cut from 8in to 6in. Gear change to reduce RPMs. Adjustable driver track bar introduced. Reduced downforce tested at Kentucky and Darlington and is received well. Increased downforce and drag tested at Indianapolis and Michigan is received poorly.
2016: Hundreds of lbs. of downforce removed from cars. Spoiler cut from 6in to 3.5in. Splitter size and radiator pan size reduced dramatically. Goodyear brings softer tires. Digital dashboard mandatory.
2017: Even more downforce removed. Spoiler cut from 3.5in to 2.375in. Splitter further reduced. Net rear steer setting of zero.
2018: NASCAR mandates common flat splitter, radiator and oil cooler. Drastic changes tried at All Star race, included less horsepower and more downforce. Race generally received well by fans and negatively by drivers.
2019: Biggest rule changes in decades implemented. Low downforce eliminated in favor of High Downforce. Spoiler goes from 2.375in to 8in. Splitter dramatically increased in size. Power reduction via tapered spacer (550hp) at tracks 1.3 miles and longer. Aero ducts replace brake ducts in effort to increase drag at most big tracks over 1.3 miles.
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