Cars will feature yellow windshield header, spoiler, valance and logo BUY: Chase die-cast cars Teams who make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will sport a special paint scheme for the second consecutive season. The teams provided feedback after the inaugural season with the new look and NASCAR has made adjustments based on those suggestions. Along with a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup logo and rounds (Challenger, Contender, Eliminator or Championship), taking the place of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series logo and NASCAR racecar decal, cars eligible for NASCAR's playoffs will be highlighted in Chase yellow. The windshield header, front valance and -- new for 2015 -- rear spoiler of each of the cars will carry the color. In 2014, the roof number was Sprint yellow as well, but the teams will keep their regular paint scheme atop their cars. Chase -eligible drivers also will receive a unique Winner decal for each win they accumulate during the Chase rounds. RELATED: Chase Grid Through the first 16 races of the season, 10 drivers have all but clinched spots in the 10-race championship battle. In Chase Grid order, those drivers are six-time champion Jimmie Johnson , reigning champion Kevin Harvick , Dale Earnhardt Jr ., 2004 champion Kurt Busch , Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr ., 2012 champion Brad Keselowski , 2003 champion Matt Kenseth , Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards . BUY: Chicagoland tickets The first race of The Chase and the first chance to see the special schemes will be at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 20 (3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, MRN, SiriusXM). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
See what the driver of the No. 18 Toyota needs to make the Chase With only nine races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , it's time to check up on Kyle Busch , driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing , as he tries to rebound from early-season injuries and make the Chase . WHAT JUST HAPPENED: Busch finished 17th in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, not bad considering he scraped the wall in Turn 4 on Lap 17. He was trying to pass Jamie McMurray when his car got loose and hit the outside wall. He went two laps down before rebounding to get on the lead lap. And he managed to avoid more damage in a night filled with big wrecks at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. WHAT HE NEEDS: With a win in hand, Busch now just needs to finish in the top 30 in the points standings to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . After Daytona, he is unofficially in 37th place, 128 points behind the 30th-place driver Cole Whitt . According to NASCAR statistical services, if all things continue at this pace, Busch roughly needs an average finish of between 13th and 14th place over the next nine races. WHAT'S NEXT: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Kentucky Speedway, where Kyle Busch is no stranger to success. He has a win, three top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes in four starts at the 1.5-mile track. He starts well (6.2 average starting position) and finishes well (4.5 average finish, tied with JGR teammate Matt Kenseth for the best mark at this track). He has also led the second-most laps of all drivers at Kentucky (only Brad Keselowski has led more), totaling 274 circuits at the point (out of the 1,068 laps there). The 30-year-old is also a loop data darling in the Bluegrass State, with the best average running position (5.270), driver rating (124.3), the fastest car on restarts (164.832 mph), fastest car under green flag conditions (172.614 mph) and has spent all but 65 laps running in the top 15 at Kentucky. Bottom line, it would be a major surprise if Busch doesn't run well at Kentucky to improve his position as he looks to make the Chase . Chase grid after Daytona FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Former owner Ray Evernham: '... There’s a championship driver in there' RELATED: Kahne swims with the sharks In the beginning, it came easy for Kasey Kahne . Fast cars and a great team and all of a sudden there's a new young gun for the established stars to deal with each weekend in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. "Yeah, everything was pretty simple back then," Kahne, 35, says. "Every time I got in the car we were fast -- practice, qualifying, race. "Today it's a little different; it's more difficult to be on top. I think part of it is the competition, it's so close today that it makes it tougher." The competition's tough, certainly, but finding that feeling behind the wheel, the one that often separates the winners from the losers, can be just as difficult. That's what Kahne enjoyed in those early years, back in 2004 and '05 and '06, and it's what he is searching for today. It's also what crew chief Keith Rodden is trying to find for his driver each and every day when he shows up for work. "If you hit on something that really suits your driving, you can be on top and you can be there for a period of time," Kahne says. "That's what we're looking for , that's what we hope to hit on eventually." The quest continues this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, site of Sunday night's Coke Zero 400 (7:45 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR ). Kasey Kahne has won 17 times at NASCAR ’s top level. He has never won a restrictor-plate points race. • • • He was just 23 when he made his Sprint Cup Series debut, finishing near the bottom of the order in the 2004 Daytona 500 after the engine soured just 42 laps into the season-opening race. But any questions about team owner Ray Evernham's decision to hire the youngster were quickly put to rest. A week after his disappointing Daytona debut, Kahne finished second at Rockingham, North Carolina. After an early-season off-week, Kahne was second again, this time at Las Vegas. All told, Kahne finished second five times as a rookie, then added a sixth early the following season. By the season's 11th stop, at Richmond, he was no longer second -- he was in Victory Lane. A year later, he won six times, more than any other driver in the series, including champion Jimmie Johnson . By the time Evernham Motorsports became Gillett Evernham Motorsports in the latter stages of ’07, Kahne had seven wins and the look of a future champion. And then it slowly began to unravel. The wins haven't ceased -- he's won 10 times since that memorable '06 season -- but the championships have thus far failed to materialize. The Gillett Evernham partnership eventually dismantled and by '09, the Enumclaw, Washington, native had moved on to Richard Petty Motorsports for a two-year stint. A stint with Red Bull Racing followed, before team owner Rick Hendrick came calling, looking for a suitable replacement for veteran Mark Martin . In 2012, Kahne settled in as the newest member of one of the most successful organizations in NASCAR . While he's qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup all three years he's been at HMS, he's slowly been trending in the wrong direction, finishing fourth, 12th and 15th in points since his arrival. RELATED: Kahne to become a father Where did the kid with so much talent and promise go? "I don't know," says Evernham, now back at HMS as a member of the organization's executive management team. "I really pushed Mr. Hendrick to hire him because I really feel like Kasey Kahne is a guy that should win a championship. "We've not been able to get him over that hump. I certainly still believe in him. I think Keith Rodden has helped Kasey's confidence. They're still kind of sorting out their cars and things like that. I don't know. I will be disappointed if Kasey Kahne ends his career without winning a championship. "He's got the talent, he's got the ability, and he's got the cars and equipment. I don't know -- communication, changes, where he's at … again, I can't answer that. It's something we talk about a lot." • • • Kahne, who has six top-10 finishes through this year's first 16 races, arrives in Daytona eighth in points. His last win came in Atlanta last season, and it was his only win of the year. Still, he says, he believes his team is making gains. Driver Reports: How will Kahne fare at Daytona? "I think our cars are super close, our engines and our packages are right there," Kahne says. "I feel good about that. "It's just a matter of keep trying to find that little bit of feel. That's what Martin Truex has right now; that's what Kevin Harvick has had for a year and a half. Just that feel. They have it and they know how to find it each week. Their teams do a really nice job with that and the drivers do a great job with it. That's what I'm looking for . I just hope I can find that feel that gives me just … you just floor it a touch sooner every lap and you go as fast as they do." Kahne knows the feel, although he jokes that "it's been a while since I've had it, so it's hard to remember. "I know it feels good," he says. "It gives you confidence; you feel like you can run (with anyone), you feel like you can win and you can battle at any time. You're better on restarts, you're better in traffic and you're better when you're on your own. "When you do have that feel, you just always seem to be a tenth or two better and it helps every part of the race weekend." Every driver that's been around for the past decade has had to deal with tremendous changes in the cars as one generation was pushed aside for newer, safer vehicles. Some have had to alter their driving styles, adapting to cars that suddenly had more downforce but could be a handful around others. A fortunate few found the changes worked in their favor and no changes were necessary. " The interesting thing is today we run so much throttle compared to what we used to run," says Kahne. "When I first came in (to the series) you were off the throttle for a good period of time, you'd ease back to it and then floor it. "Today it's on and off. It's like a light switch. And the percentage of the time that you're wide open today compared to then is much higher. I think some of those things haven't fit my driving style as well as I would have liked. As a driver, I need to keep working on that stuff and figure out how to make it fit my driving style. "I think when I first came into the sport, it was all about getting off the brake as fast as you could and getting back to throttle as soon as possible. If you weren't wide open that was OK, you were still part throttle and still gaining speed. "Today, it's like push the brake hard for a split second, get off it and hammer the throttle hard. Your off-throttle time is very small. It’s just so much different driving these cars today. I'm up for the challenge, but I think as we’ve gone through the changes (to the cars), it's been a little more difficult for the way I learned to race." • • • For the majority of his career, Kahne was paired with crew chief Kenny Francis. That changed during the most recent off-season when Hendrick officials put former lead engineer Keith Rodden in charge. Rodden is one of the new breed, an engineer that has transitioned into the role of crew chief. But carrying a degree, he said, doesn't mean an engineer will make a successful crew chief. “Absolutely not. It just doesn’t matter,” Rodden says. “When you’re the crew chief, you’ve got to be the leader of the team, you have to work well with all the NASCAR people, you’ve got to be able to take all the information from all the people you have working whether it’s the engineer, the tire guy or literally the janitor sweeping the shop … you have to use everyone's input." Rodney Childers, crew chief for defending series champion Kevin Harvick "is very methodical," he says. "He's a great racer. He probably could have gone to engineering school. He didn't, he went to race. Whereas Matt McCall (crew chief for driver Jamie McMurray ), he's a great racer. He went to engineering school at home and kept racing. "I think there are examples where it's easy to say it works and others where it doesn’t. Just like (Tony Gibson) on the 41, he’s got (Johnny) Klausmeier he relies on a lot." Gibson is crew chief of the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet with driver Kurt Busch . "I think the biggest thing is just using all the input from all your guys," Rodden said. "It's too big for one person." His cars have had speed this year, although Rodden takes no credit for that. Part of the reason, he says, may be the current rules package, one that features less downforce and less horsepower. "We don't really worry about the speed as much as trying to get the car to driving good because that always seems to race a little bit better," he says. "You get sad maybe if you're not quite as fast as another car but we work on trying to get our car to drive good and have good speed, instead of just maybe being on the verge of spinning out every lap and being fast. Being smart about it, too." • • • NASCAR is a team sport, but Kahne knows his role is vital. As he goes, the fortunes of the No. 5 team follow. Teams have gotten smarter and worked harder through the various changes in the cars in recent years. "That's where as a driver you need to be able to adapt and be able to do your part," Kahne says. "I feel like I'm always close but I don't feel like I’m ever that guy on top. "There were times in '05 and '06 for sure when I felt I was as fast as anyone in this garage on a lot of occasions. And there have been times like that since, but just not as many. It's the way it goes. "I still have a lot of drive, I still want to race cars. I want to win races. I think if you have all that and you have that passion that eventually you’ll get it figured out and get back on top." No one would be more pleased to see that happen than Evernham, the former championship-winning crew chief with driver Jeff Gordon . "We're still searching for that key to unlock because I know there's a big part of Kasey Kahne in there," Evernham says. "He's 35 years old; we've got to unlock that but I believe that there's a championship driver in there." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR .com's Kathy Sheldon and Jessica Ruffin debate the idea RELATED: Chase 101: What you need to know Coming out of Sonoma, Sprint Cup Series points leader Kevin Harvick shows no signs of letting up, but Jimmie Johnson sits atop the Chase Grid standings with four wins, nine top fives and 11 top 10s. At NASCAR .com we started kicking around the question of which of these two formidable chasers will have what it takes to win the Sprint Cup Championship this year: The defending champ or the six-time title winner? Check out what Jessica Ruffin and Kathy Sheldon have to say on the issue then tell us who you're picking in the comments section. Sheldon: This reminds me of two-stepping, Jessica. Kevin Harvick has finished either first or second in 10 of this season's 16 races. And he and Jimmie Johnson are either 1 or 2 on almost everyone’s list of championship picks. (Aside from Kyle Busch fans, who have a lot to cheer for after his victory at Sonoma on Sunday.) But Harvick’s going to be the one still dancing at the end of the party this season. He’s simply more consistent. With 14 top 10s, he can battle hard in the Chase Grid format. He could make the Contender Round and Eliminator round by doing exactly what he’s been doing. And we know he and crew chief Rodney Childers can put a hot rod on the track and get the most out of it. Chad Knaus finally has a worthy opponent, too. Ruffin: A worthy opponent for Chad Knaus, indeed. As the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion, Kevin Harvick ’s strong season has shown he hasn’t lost his title touch this year. But I’m going to have to disagree with your pick for the champion, setting my sights on Jimmie Johnson . You're right; Harvick does boast three more top-10s than Johnson. But to me, wins trump top-10s, and with four trips to Victory Lane this year, Johnson already owns twice the amount of 2015 wins as Harvick. The playoff-style Chase format has placed an even greater emphasis on winning both in the races leading up to the Chase and during the championship run. You can talk about consistency all day long, but at the end of the day, it’s about W's -- and Johnson has proved he can do that four times this season. Sheldon: They're both proven winners. And I do think it comes down to Homestead. Let's assume both can get through the Contender 12 round. I just can't see either not making it to the Eliminator 8. That round could be interesting, though, with races at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix. Harvick won at Phoenix March 15. Johnson won at Texas on April 11. Neither had a stellar day at Martinsville on March 29, but Harvick finished eighth and Johnson had a terrible day, fighting a loose car and finishing 35th. He finished 32nd there last fall. I think this section is the No. 48 team’s Achilles’ Heel. Johnson is extremely good at Texas, but this could be where his luck runs out. Ruffin: The Eliminator 8 is an interesting round, with a true short track and two intermediate tracks, Phoenix having a more short-track-like feel. And while the wildcard nature of the Chase could theoretically make any track a team's Achilles' Heel, I think you’ll have to look elsewhere for Johnson’s downfall. With eight trips to Victory Lane, the Hendrick Motorsports driver is tied with teammate Jeff Gordon for the most wins at Martinsville among active drivers, having finished first and fifth there in 2013 -- the last time he won the title. The all-time winner at Texas with five wins, the Fort Worth track has served as a playground for Johnson in recent years, as he's won four of the last six events there -- including the race in the Eliminator 8 round last season. Harvick does have Johnson beat at Phoenix with seven victories, but the No. 48 team still boasts four wins at the Arizona track. The No. 48 team just seems to have rediscovered its groove this season after struggling with adjustments to the rules package last year. And he’s getting better as the season progresses -- Johnson has recorded an average finish of 8.7 in the past 10 races of 2015, while Harvick’s past 10 races bring up a score of 9.8. Sheldon: A-plus. Just seeing if you'd done your homework. Though I do think the most recent history leans Harvick’s way. He has that No. 4 car right where he wants it. That said, it’s pretty hard to pick against either of these great competitors, really. Possibly the best part of the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup will be finding out who Harvick and Johnson will have to beat in NASCAR ’s version of the Final Four. Ruffin: Recent history may lean Harvick's way -- after all, he is the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion. Nevertheless, I think history as a whole leans toward Johnson, the six-time champion and 74-time series winner. The Johnson-Knaus duo knows how to win races, as well as championships. That being said, I also look forward to watching Harvick and Johnson battle each other and the rest of the field on the race track this season. If last year's Chase is any indication of this season's championship run, it's guaranteed to produce some awesome racing. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
See what's coming this week to NASCAR .com Here's what you'll see on NASCAR .com this week: MONDAY: Zack Albert follows up on Jeff Gordon 's final Sprint Cup race as a driver at his home track, Sonoma Raceway. ... Find out everything you need to know about NBC's NASCAR coverage as the network returns to racing this weekend at Daytona ... @nascarcasm shares fake photo captions from the weekend that was at Sonoma Raceway. TUESDAY: Kyle Busch won his way into a provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth on Sunday, and senior writer Kenny Bruce has reaction from the driver and his team on how they plan to crack the top 30 in points. ... Power Rankings is back after a weekend off. ... @nascarcasm has Busch's Facebook page. WEDNESDAY: It's 10 races until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , and Kathy Sheldon and Jessica Ruffin debate whether Jimmie Johnson or Kevin Harvick is the favorite to win the 2015 title. ... Check out the Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series patriotic paint schemes that will be on track this Fourth of July weekend. ... The Dirty Air podcast makes its debut. ... Senior writer Kenny Bruce gets you caught up on all competition aspects of the sport with his weekly Tech Talk story as NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell weighs in on Sonoma weekend on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. THURSDAY: Driver Reports welcomes Kyle Busch to the fold. Senior writer Holly Cain tells you want to expect at Daytona this weekend as it stages a race in the middle of DAYTONA Rising, the reimagining of an American icon ... Take a #TBT look at NBC's first race and Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s first Daytona Sprint Cup win in 2001. ... "From the Vault" looks back as Jeff Gordon beats Dale Earnhardt for his first restrictor plate win 20 years ago at Daytona. FRIDAY: The Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series have two practices apiece, starting at 2 p.m. ET. ... We'll also have eight of the best tweets that you may have missed from the previous week. ... Mobil 1 presents GarageCam, which takes you inside the Sprint Cup and XFINITY garages. Also coming this week: Patriotism is on parade and see the best photos in our special gallery. ... Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series is on Saturday afternoon. Get the live leaderboard at 4:35 p.m. ET and follow Sunday's race on NBC with a live leaderboard, RaceBuddy and RaceView.
See what 'Rowdy' needs to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup RELATED: Busch wins at Sonoma " Updated Chase Grid post-Sonoma With only 10 races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , it's time to check up on Kyle Busch , driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing , as he tries to rebound from early-season injuries and make the Chase . WHAT JUST HAPPENED: What a day it was for Kyle Busch at Sonoma Raceway. In just his fifth start of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, he used a late caution to get fresh tires that would take him to Victory Lane. With five laps to go, he took the lead from Jimmie Johnson . He held off older brother Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer to score his second career Sonoma win and the 30th victory of his Sprint Cup career. WHAT HE NEEDS: With the win, Busch now just needs to finish in the top 30 in the points standings to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . After Sonoma, he is unofficially in 37th place, 136 points behind the 30th-place driver Cole Whitt . According to NASCAR statistical services, if all things continue at this pace, Busch roughly needs an average finish of 14th over the next 10 races. WHAT'S NEXT: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads back to Daytona International Speedway. This will be Busch's first time competing there since he suffered a compound fracture of the right lower leg and a left mid-foot fracture in the NASCAR XFINITY Series season-opener in February. In 20 Cup starts at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, Busch has one win, five top fives, six top 10s, one pole and has led 329 laps (out of the 3,323 laps there). The summer race at Daytona has treated Busch better than the season-opening Daytona 500 as he has scored his lone win and four of his top fives then. WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: . @KyleBusch wins at @RaceSonoma !!! Yes!!! Unbelievable! # NASCAR @mmschocolate — Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) June 28, 2015 Congratulations @KyleBusch @SamanthaBusch @ToyotaRacing unreal win coming back from Daytona — Steve O'Donnell (@odsteve) June 28, 2015 It's official. He's back! Congrats to @KyleBusch on you're trip to @Gatorade victory lane! # NASCAR — Martinsville Spdway (@MartinsvilleSwy) June 28, 2015 Will @KyleBusch attend the RIR Post-Race Party? He says: "We've got our work cut out for us." #SoYoureSayingTheresAChance — Richmond Raceway (@RIRInsider) June 28, 2015 FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Gordon comes up short in final race in home state SONOMA, Calif. -- The finality of his last race at Sonoma Raceway -- his last NASCAR event in his home state of California -- hit home for Jeff Gordon before the engine ever fired on his No. 24 Chevrolet Sunday. Pre-race commemorations and a rousing welcome from a healthy crowd in driver introductions drove the point home. During the race itself, though, the deeper personal significance was secondary to the heat of the battle and what the result meant to his final championship run. "It would've been emotional if I was over in Victory Lane," Gordon joked as Kyle Busch celebrated his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season. "Coming into today, seeing all the 24 flags, driver introductions was kind of overwhelming and it was cool. I hadn't really thought about it since then. You get in the race and you get so focused on the race that you don't think about anything other than just trying to get the best finish that you can, but I've got a lot of friends and family out here and they're here because this is my last race here. That means a lot to me, and then a good day overall other than we didn't get a better finish." The four-time champion's Golden State swan song in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 featured a little taste of everything -- a flat tire, a pit-road penalty, a major handling adjustment and a bold strategy play from crew chief Alan Gustafson near the finish. The composite result was a 16th-place finish for Gordon, who couldn't overcome the combination of factors to make his Sonoma farewell sweeter. Gordon spent most of the 110-lap race's first half among the top five, but he pitted the No. 24 Chevy on Lap 51 as his handling began to deteriorate. As he returned to the track, his Hendrick Motorsports crew told him that the left-front tire was cut and low on air pressure. "Still something's not right, but I'll make the best of it," Gordon answered through the team radio. But the car's feel didn't drastically improve, and by Lap 76 during the race's third caution period, Gustafson took the time for an extra-long pit stop to remove the No. 24's spring rubbers to emulate the setup of Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson , who wound up leading the most laps Sunday. "That's the opposite of what we usually race here," Gustafson said of the altered setup. " The stuff we had unfortunately wasn't very good today and we improved it. Just part of the exercise was learning to see what we were off on. We had a flat left-front during the middle of the race which got us behind. If we wouldn't have had that, we could've executed and kept our car up front and probably got a top-10, but just rough right now. Got to fight through it." Whether it was the effect of the lengthy stop or the subsequent penalty to his team for throwing equipment over the pit wall, the visit left Gordon at the back of the pack in 26th place for the restart that followed. Gordon inched back into the top 20, but when the race's final yellow flag emerged with 11 laps remaining, Gustafson opted to keep his driver on the track to help him move up the leaderboard. Gordon lined up third for the seven-lap sprint to the finish, but wasn't able to make the gained ground pay off. He slipped to his 16th-place finishing position on well-worn tires. "I just tried to make something happen there at the end and who knows, we may have lost a spot or two because of it," Gustafson said, "but trying to make a big reward, it didn't work out that way. That's part of it. You've got to try. You can't just sit on it." The bigger reward beyond Sunday's checkered flag would be the virtually automatic berth into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs that accompanies it. Busch was the latest to potentially punch his ticket, though he'll need to finish the regular season in the top 30 in Sprint Cup driver points to officially enter playoff contention. The turn of events left Gordon in the 14th of 16 spots on the provisional Chase gird, third-best of the five winless drivers this season who are in playoff position. With 10 races remaining before the Chase field is set, Gordon said it's too early to let scoreboard-watching or panic alter the No. 24 team's approach. "We're just trying to go out and perform the best we can every weekend," Gordon said. "I've always said, it's not about making the Chase , it's about being a factor in the Chase , and while there is meaning to being in it, we want to be more than just in it. So we've got some improving to do, we know that. We're working on it. I really thought we were going to be good today, and I don't know how good Kyle really was, but he certainly was good when it counted at the end." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kyle Busch earns his first win of 2015 in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway and is one step closer to making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup .
Darlington, Indianapolis, Michigan, Richmond join Kentucky in seeing changes A low downforce rules package similar to that scheduled for use by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams this weekend at Kentucky Speedway will be run in September at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, according to Steve O'Donnell, Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer for the sanctioning body. In addition, teams will compete with a higher drag rules package at both Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this month as well as Michigan International Speedway in August. This weekend's Kentucky aero package features a shorter spoiler (reduced from 6 inches to 3-1/2 inches) and a splitter extension panel (radiator pan) reduction from 38 inches to 25 inches. The splitter will have 1-3/4 inches less overhang that what has previously been used this season. Combined, the aero changes are expected to lessen the amount of downforce on the cars by approximately 1,000 pounds. Teams have a four-hour extended practice scheduled for Wednesday at Kentucky to acclimate themselves to the new package. “ The ideal package for us is matching the tire with lower downforce, and when we looked at the schedule, the most ideal venue for that was Darlington, so we feel like we have the lead time for Goodyear to come in and build that specific tire, so that's why we moved forward on the Darlington package,” O’Donnell said. While the Darlington setup will be similar to that slated for this weekend's Quaker State 400, there are differences. The spoiler will be 3-1/2 (instead of 3 inches) inches and the splitter will feature a 1/4-inch leading edge. There is no change in the size of the splitter extension panel (25 inches). Although the tires used this weekend at Kentucky were not tested at the 1.5-mile track with the lower downforce platform during an April tire test, Goodyear officials were able to determine a tire for the Darlington package during a one-day test last week with drivers Tony Stewart ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Matt Kenseth ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) and Brad Keselowski ( Team Penske ). For Indy and Michigan, the aero package will feature a 9-inch spoiler and 1-inch wicker bill; a rear fascia extension panel similar to that currently used for superspeedway events; a 2-inch leading edge on the splitter; and a 43-inch splitter extension panel. Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon set the track qualifying record at Michigan last year with a lap of 206.558 mph. The high drag package scheduled for use is expected to slow speeds by nearly 10 mph. “You'll see some significant mile‑per‑hour differences,” O’Donnell said. “That'll change depending on single-car (runs) and the draft, but I think we're looking at over 200 (mph) before and kind of the 191 range that we'd be looking at now.” Gordon was asked about high-drag changes for this past weekend while at Daytona International Speedway. "I think it is obvious to all of us that (Indy) is one of the hardest places we have to pass," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. "I think we are all in favor of trying a low downforce package and we want to try the opposite of that; I think Indy and Michigan are good tracks to try that out. We will just have to see what happens. … "If we can get the speeds right, then what it is going to do is create a really massive hole in the air for you to draft up to down the straightaway. Those are long straightaways at both of those tracks. The question is still what is going to happen when you are behind another car through a corner. " The magic is there, we just have to figure out how to pull it off." Indy is a 2.5-mile track while MIS is a 2-mile venue. O’Donnell said additional track time would be added to the race-weekend schedule at those venues affected by the rules changes. “There won't be earlier test dates (at the individual tracks),” he said. “It'll be built into the race weekend like Kentucky. … Michigan you can see us add an hour, hour and a half practice time. Same thing around Indy.” There are no scheduled aero changes for the upcoming race at Richmond International Raceway, the final race before the start of this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup , however Goodyear will not return with a multi-zone tread compound tire that had been used there recently. “I think all of this shows that we remain committed to putting the best racing on in the world, and each of these, including Kentucky this weekend, I think shows everybody that we've got several components that make up a rules package each week, and they can certainly be adjusted, and we will do that if we can do something that we believe will improve the racing for the fans at each track,” O’Donnell said. The changes are not currently scheduled for use at any tracks hosting Chase races. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Round-by-Round and Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid explanations