By AMANDA VINCENT
NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell revealed the base 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series aero rules package during a teleconference on Wednesday afternoon.
The sanctioning body is going with a package that produces lower downforce than the 2015 package currently in use after similar lower-downforce packages received rave reviews from fans and competitors after in-race tests at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and Darlington (S.C.) Speedway earlier this season.
“NASCAR has worked tirelessly with our teams, drivers, manufacturers and Goodyear to develop a rules package that provides fans with the best racing possible,” O’Donnell said. “The success of the races and Kentucky and Darlington in similar trim proved extremely valuable in accelerating rules development for 2016. Now, as teams have even more time to prepare and a strong baseline of data, we anticipate the racing to be even better.”
The base package will include a 3.5-inch spoiler, a 0.25-inch front leading splitter edge and a 33-inch-wide radiator pan. According to a release from NASCAR, simultaneous to O’Donnell’s teleconference, the 2016 package will give drivers more off-throttle time and decrease corner speeds, generating the ability to pass in more areas on the track.
The aforementioned package is just a base and will be tweaked from track to track through such things as “tire combinations and drive train configurations.” Also, rear gear ratios will be tweaked to keep engines at 9,000 maximum RPM. A 1.38 third-gear ratio will be mandated at all tracks shorter than 1.25 miles.
After the announcement, Richard Petty Motorsports released a statement from one of its drivers, Aric Almirola, on the 2016 package.
“I really like the new rules package,” Almirola said. “It’s a package that really puts the drivers more in control during the race. In the past, we’ve just flat-footed at the mile-and-a-half tracks, but now, y9ou’re working the gas and using the brake more, which allows for more passing. It’s going to be more exciting for us, the fans and the sport overall. I really give credit to NASCAR for listening to the drivers and all the stakeholders in the sport. They studied it, took their time to get the best package possible and have now made a decision that’s really the best for everyone. I think it’s a big plus for our sport.”
In other changes:
The digital dashboard that is currently optional will become mandatory in 2016. Only a handful of teams have digital dashboards in their cars now, with others declining to use it because of its five-pound weight.
In the name of safety, next season, NASCAR will mandate a double NACA duct at tracks where right-hand side windows are used. A fire supression system activation cable routed to the dash or right side leg board and and a SFI 16.6 seat belt restraint system will also become mandatory in 2016.
Here’s a graphic released by NASCAR, providing an overview of the new package.
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