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‘No more aerodynamic changes’ NASCAR tells drivers in short track product meeting

Instead, the focus is going to be tire falloff

NASCAR: Cup Practice & Qualifying
Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR conducted one of its regularly scheduled competition meetings with drivers on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway and the state of short track racing was the primary topic of conversation.

The primary takeaways is that NASCAR is committed to not increasing horsepower but is working diligently with Goodyear to intentionally create a tire that more closely resembled what happened last month at Bristol Motor Speedway — a race with near disastrous tire fall-off and a record number of lead changes.

It’s something NASCAR has said publicly too in the form of vice president of competition Elton Sawyer in numerous interviews too.

Denny Hamlin addressed the meeting during the Monday episode of his Actions Detrimental podcast.

“They’re going to really focus on tires and tracks,” Hamlin said. “… Goodyear was there. Obviously, they hear us loud and clear on what we’re trying to achieve. The biggest difference with Next Gen versus Gen 6 is that the loads are significantly lower than what they were. Really on the left sides is the big place where we really need to get the tire wear working a bit more on Next Gen is the left side wear. So, they’re going to try to get really aggressive at some tracks. They got some tire tests coming up and they showed us the schedule for that.

“They [NASCAR] definitely said publicly last week, and they said it to us that horsepower is just not an option for various reasons. If we’re going to keep the horsepower, we should definitely in my opinion work on getting rid of the shifting. In order to do that, they’re going to need to make the upper RPM slightly higher or else we’re going to be running just way too low RPM in the middle of the corner. I certainly think that shifting is not helping at all on the short tracks, but beyond that, it looks like we’re going to focus on tires to fix the short tracks.”

That also means NASCAR is done tinkering with various aerodynamic solutions, from reducing downforce through the spoiler and rear diffuser, and going all in with Goodyear on finding a fix through the tire compound.

He also is very adamant that continuing to reduce the downforce has only hurt tire wear on short tracks because there is less load on the tires with each aerodynamic change made over the past two years.

“It’s safe to say that I think NASCAR is done with tinkering with aero on short tracks,” Hamlin said. “Which thank God.  It was never aero. So, I think if anything I think that downforce that they took off of the cars would continue to not help the tire. It just made — it’s not wearing the tire. You got to have downforce to wear a tire down. And as we took downforce off, while I agree with that main sentiment, it’s, just it doesn’t wear tires.

“I think we’re focused on the tires. That’s what we need to do. Let’s see what happens out of this and I know we said this a year ago, but Goodyear — they’re getting a lot of pressure I think from NASCAR to help fix these short tracks and fix them soon.”

Joey Logano, addressing the possibility that narrower tires and wheels could be an option, offered a compromise rebuttal instead.

“That would be a really expensive change,” Logano said. “Maybe grooving the tire would accomplish the same thing but on the same size wheel. Maybe that’s an option. I don’t see that in the near future at the moment.”

Defending Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney says he is trying to be nuanced and fair about the whole process.

“The tire discussion seems to be a weekly, ‘what do we do?’ and I try to put myself on both sides of it,” Blaney said. “As a racer, what do I want, but I’m also trying to put myself in Goodyear’s shoes. That’s a tough job.

“I wouldn’t want their job, personally. You’re always being asked of something that’s hard to obtain and you don’t know if it’s going to work or not until you actually get going. You can do all the tests and mixtures and assumptions that you want, but until you actually get it on the track you’re like, ‘I don’t really know what our product is gonna do.’

“You can’t simulate that stuff, so I try to not be on the side of, ‘Oh, Goodyear is not doing their job’ because they are. They’re trying the best they can, but it’s not an overnight thing.”

Blaney says he doesn’t really know where to go next because a lot has already been attempted.

“I don’t know. We’ve tried to go super soft,” he said. “The groove thing has been talked about, not even like the tread but just having grooves in the tire, so I don’t know.

“I don’t know what the next step is. I know there are a lot of things being kicked around right now that you might see later on, possibly maybe at the All-Star Race it might be something to try of, ‘hey, we’ve got this idea, we’re really gonna throw something at it at the All-Star Race, short track, let’s see what this tire does.’ I know it’s a new pave at Wilkesboro, but I think there’s a lot of discussion going on right now of some wild stuff and I guess we’ll start throwing darts. That’s the time to do it.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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