“Even the short tracks, you've got to change your driving style to what we're running with this lower downforce package and I'm sure Dover will be a part of it. We'll do our job to make the adjustments we need to at Dover with the low downforce package and it'll definitely be different.” -- Sprint Cup driver Austin Dillon
Drivers in the Sprint Cup Series have their fingers crossed that rules developed by NASCAR prior to this season will create more exciting racing in Sunday’s AAA Drive for Autism 400 at Dover International Speedway.
The new rules have combined to decrease downforce on the race cars, helping drivers engage in more of the side-by-side racing that has produced several thrilling finishes so far this season.
“This is what race car driving’s all about,” driver Denny Hamlin said, about the effects the rules changes have had. ”And I feel like now it’s back in the driver and crew chief’s hands to get their car handling like they’re supposed to, not just an arms race of who builds the fastest cars in the shop.”
Changes to the race cars this season include a 3.5-inch high rear spoiler (was 6 inches), a 0.25-inch front leading splitter edge (was 2 inches) and a 33-inch wide radiator pan (was 38 inches).
The result of the changes creates less downforce, the downward thrust on a car created by aerodynamics. Drivers have said less downforce gives them more control and results in less throttle time and slower speeds in the corners.
The changes could help produce a more exciting race on Dover’s high-banked, one-mile oval this weekend. It could open the drivers up to running different grooves, or multiple lanes, around its concrete surface.
Kasey Kahne is one of a majority of drivers who enjoy racing with lower downforce.
“I think everywhere we’ve went this year it’s been better because you can get closer to the car in front of you and you can move the front end and it doesn’t affect your race car as much,” Kahne said. “So, to me, I think the racing’s been great this year. I look forward to Dover. It’s going to be a bit different there, also.”
Austin Dillon said the new rules have made the teams throw out their old notebooks and make adjustments on the fly with each passing race.
“Even the short tracks, you’ve got to change your driving style to what we’re running with this lower downforce package and I’m sure Dover will be a part of it,” Dillon said. “We’ll do our job to make the adjustments we need to at Dover with the low downforce package and it’ll definitely be different.”
The lower downforce rules will also allow Goodyear to develop a tire that complements the new package and produces more fall-off, which would likely lead to more passing. A softer tire, like the one built for Darlington, led to drivers conserving their tires while slipping and sliding all over the track.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport’s most popular driver, gave a thumbs-up to the new package earlier this season.
“I love that the cars are harder to drive,” Earnhardt said. “I think all the drivers wanted that, and I think all the drivers will say this is the right direction to go. I love it. For me, I had a blast.”
A different Xfinity Series race
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet will be the sponsor for the Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash, Saturday at Dover International Speedway.
The Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 200 will be the third of four Dash 4 Cash events on the Xfinity Series schedule this season. It will feature a different format. Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, a pair of 40-lap heats is followed by a 120-lap race.
In addition to sponsoring the Bargain Outlet 200, the company is one of several supporters of the Monster Mile’s Autism Awareness Day at the Races. That provides families with children on the autism spectrum a sensory-friendly environment to watch Sunday’s Drive for Autism. Ollie’s will be contributing toys, games, lounge items and more.
“We have had a great relationship with Dover International Speedway for many years, so when they presented the entitlement sponsor opportunity to us, we were excited to jump on board,” said Mark Butler, Ollie’s president and CEO. “We are also happy to support our friends at Autism Delaware and their efforts, along with Dover’s Autism Awareness Day at the Races program.”
Dates for 2017
Dover will once again host a pair of tripleheader weekends, June 2-4 and Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2017.
The Oct. 1 Cup series race will again be the third leg of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Cup Championship and feature the first four eliminations from the 16-driver field.
“2017 will be an exciting year for NASCAR and we’re proud to once again host six races,” said Mike Tatoian, president and CEO of Dover International Speedway. “We’ve always been one of motorsports’ unique venues and we’re thrilled that the Monster Mile continues to occupy a prominent place in the Chase.”