Nascar racing is at the best its been in years. Here’s why.
After last year’s season, which had great storylines (Jeff Gordon’s retirement, Kyle Busch’s comeback, etc.) but mediocre racing, Nascar experimented with changing the rules package, modifying the car-building specifications to make the racing more exciting. The sport’s first attempts at change, a high-downforce package which saw track time at Indianapolis and Michigan, were disastrous. The racing was sluggish–cars hugged the ground and were unable to pass or do much of anything, for that matter. But Nascar finally hit on something in Kentucky. The rules package they rolled out there would be the basis of the one used in the 2016 season.
Nascar debuted a low-downforce package that created more exciting racing. Downforce is an aerodynamic term, referring to how well the car sticks to the racing surface and can be controlled without sliding. Cars which generate a lot of downforce are easier to control, but drive faster in clean air and are harder to pass. By creating a low-downforce package, Nascar put cars on the track that slide around more; they’re harder to keep steady, which keeps the field close together and the cars easier to pass with. The result has been some of the best racing we’ve seen in years, including two photo finishes in the first five races.
However, Nascar cannot rest on its laurels. As time goes on teams will figure out ways to increase downforce and get around the new package. Nascar’s rules have to keep evolving, reducing the downforce on the car’s to keep the racing fast and exciting. The old adage “If you build it, they will come” has never had more weight for Nascar. If it consistently puts out a good product on track, the fans will start coming back to the sport.