NASCAR makes aerodynamic changes to eliminate packing

Friday, November 2, 2001

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- A brainstorming session between NASCAR and team representatives Thursday produced aerodynamic rule changes designed to eliminate dangerous pack racing before next year's Daytona 500.

The two-hour meeting, held at Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters and attended by about 80 drivers, crew chiefs and car owners, was called by NASCAR for teams to voice their complaints about racing at Daytona and Talladega.

Carburetor restrictor plates and aerodynamic devices are used to keep speeds under 200 mph in the interest of safety on the circuit's two biggest and fastest layouts.

When the meeting was over, NASCAR had agreed to a new set of aerodynamic rules that will be used on the cars when they go to Daytona in January to test for the season-opening event.

Gone from the Winston Cup cars will be the thin metal strip across the roof, the rear spoiler angle will be reduced from 70 degrees to 55 degrees and the air-catching upright bend will be removed from the top of the spoilers.

The height dimensions of the spoilers and air dams will be determined in the January test sessions, and NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said tweaking could continue through the pole-winners' all-star race held before the 500 if any of the four manufacturers seem to have too much of an advantage or disadvantage.

"In regard to the heights, we're going to dance with that after we get to Daytona and see how the cars are running and try to equalize whatever has evolved," Hunter said. "If the balance is skewed one way or the other, we would be prepared to make a change."

Under the current aero rules, used the past two years at Talladega and Daytona, one large pack of cars runs bumper-to-bumper and side-by-side over the course of the entire race.

It often leads to multicar wrecks, most recently a 16-car pileup that occurred on the final lap at Talladega last month.

Angry drivers stormed the NASCAR hauler after that race, complaining of the current conditions. NASCAR promised to re-evaluate the rules and called Thursday's meeting to gather input.

What was decided closely resembles a set of changes 19 teams tried during an August testing session at Talladega.

Most thought the changes would be put in place for the EA Sports 500 on Oct. 21. But after studying the numbers from the two-day test, representatives from Chevrolet complained that the new package put them at a disadvantage, so nothing was changed.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. went on to win the race in a Chevrolet, giving the manufacturer victories in all four of this year's restrictor-plate races.

"We tried the new package and everybody loved it, and we left there thinking we had found something," said Ricky Rudd, who drives a Ford. "But really what happened was at the end of the day, that's when the politics started so nothing happened.

"The one constant was that everyone was in agreement that the drivers liked it better, so now we'll take that package and do some tweaking here and there to make sure it works for everyone."

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