NASCAR Rolls Out New 2016 Sprint Cup Rules Package

NASCAR executive VP Steve O'Donnell
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

NASCAR announced today their new base rules package for the 2016 Sprint Cup season, rolling out a new "low-downforce" aerodynamic package that was tested earlier this season to favorable reviews from drivers who have been pressing NASCAR to take steps to improve the product on the racetrack.

The new package that was unveiled Wednesday will feature a 3.5-inch spoiler, a 0.25-inch front leading splitter edge and a 33-inch wide radiator pan, designed to provide less downforce to make the cars harder to handle and more challenging for drivers – hopefully promoting more passing and better performance on the track.

A similar package was tested earlier this season at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington Raceway and won considerable praise from drivers who have been pressing NASCAR for changes since the start of the 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," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "The success of the races at 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."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]After two seasons of racing where the lack of passing and 400-lap single-car freight trains drew criticism from drivers and fans alike, NASCAR began looking at improving the current rules package to promote more passing and better racing on the track.

NASCAR's new 2016 rules package at a glance

At the beginning of this season, NASCAR started to lay the groundwork for the new rules package. Ideas ranged from low-downforce aero packages that made the cars harder to control and therefore more of a challenge for drivers; and a high-downforce package that offered more drag in an effort to slow the cars down to make passing easier.

While NASCAR solicited opinions from the manufacturers and the teams, a small cadre of driver formed a "driver's council" to meet with NASCAR back in June to voice their concerns about several issues including the current rules package.

Although NASCAR had planned to test the new aero package ideas as early as the 2015 All Star race at Charlotte last May – a non-points event – NASCAR instead opted to roll out both packages in a real-world, points-paying events.

To get the necessary data they needed, NASCAR rolled out the high-downforce package at Michigan and Indianapolis and the low-downforce rules at Kentucky and Darlington.

The high-downforce option got mixed reviews, while the low-downforce package seemed to get the results NASCAR was looking for.

"(We) certainly had to learn some things along the way of how certain things react, which we did this year, and it led us to what we believe is going to be a really strong package heading into '16," said O'Donnell. "As you saw, we ran a number of variations this year. There was low, there was high drag, so, you know, I think the ability for us to go out and run all those packages and see what the results were helped land us on 2016.

"Ultimately what do we think is going to put on the best race, and what we kept coming back to was looking at the low downforce package."

Although the base package will be used on all tracks except the superspeedway tracks like Daytona and Talladega, O'Donnell reiterated that each track will still feature a tire combination and gear ratio setups that will be unique to each track. He also emphasized there are no plans to implement any changes to the current rules package before the end of the season.

O'Donnell also said new aero packages could be in the offing for both the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series, based on how well the package shakes out in the Cup Series.

Brad Keselowski was among those praising the new rules package
Andy Lyons/Getty Images for NASCAR

NASCAR's announcement was welcomed by drivers, including former series champ Brad Keselowski, who tweeted earlier "Good news – 2016 rules package is a huge upgrade."

Keselowski followed that up by tweeting "Less downforce – harder to drive – racing more in (the) driver hands".

Sprint Cup Series driver Aric Almirola says the new rules "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, you'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," said Almirola. "I really give credit to NASCAR for listening to the drivers and all the stakeholders in the sport. I think it's a big plus for our sport."

Among the other changes announced for 2016 – all teams will now be require to use new digital dashboards which were previously optional. NASCAR also added new rules concerning the placement of fire suppression systems in the cockpit and the addition of a right side NACA duct to cool the driver at tracks where the right-side window is used.

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