There hasn’t been much opportunity to see the real-world impact of the rule tweaks NASCAR has made for Saturday night’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But Kyle Busch isn’t a huge fan of what NASCAR is attempting for the non-points race.
The series has added restrictor plates to the engines, taller spoilers to the back of the cars and air ducts on the noses of the cars in an attempt to make the field race closer together in the All-Star Race. With less acceleration from a choked-back engine and a bigger wake created with the air ducts and higher spoilers, the goal is drivers will be able to run nose-to-tail relatively easily and make passes via the draft.
But the changes also mean that speeds are considerably slower than normal. In Friday’s very abbreviated practice session, Kevin Harvick’s average speed atop the leaderboard was about 170 MPH. And drivers aren’t having to get off the gas in the corners.
The tweaks are based on what NASCAR tried in Indianapolis for the Xfinity Series race in 2017. The changes were deemed a success because the rules brought the cars closer together in a series with a massive competitive imbalance that’s always been highlighted at the 2.5-mile flat track.
The competitive imbalance isn’t on nearly as grand a scale in the Cup Series. But if the All-Star Race produces compelling racing on Friday night, it’s easy to envision NASCAR taking the All-Star Race changes and implementing them in some points races in 2018.
“I can certainly see it,” Busch said. “It’s not necessarily what I signed up for to be a race car driver to bring the whole field closer together and have it dictated by some type of a plate race, but if that’s what we’re going to have going forward then I guess I either need to think about how to get really good at it or getting out of it so we’ll see what happens.”
We have no idea who is good or not good at this type of slow racing so far. Rain washed out much of Friday’s activities at the track and some drivers barely got a chance to attempt to make a lap on the track. Given it’s the All-Star Race and ultimately a race that means nothing, it’s not the worst thing in the world if NASCAR sent the teams out for Saturday’s main race and qualifying race without any practice time.
But on the other hand, it’s nice to have an idea if the simulations teams have run at their shops are reflected in reality. Kurt Busch got a lap in on Friday and said his lap speed was pretty close to what they were expecting. For reference, the pole speed for the 2017 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway was under 28 seconds.
“But our simulation model said that we would run a 32.20 and I think we were spot on from our simulation models,” Kurt Busch said. “Now we know we can go a little quicker by lowering the car. Also it felt like I was in third gear for six miles down the straightaway. The horsepower is choked down so much that it is a unique feel at a 1.5 mile to be this choked down on power.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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