Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman dueled in dirty air to exciting results last month at Chicagoland Speedway.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has changed.
Some would say it has evolved with the high downforce, low horsepower competition package, but regardless of how one feels about the new formula, there is no denying the impact it has had on the rules of engagement at the highest level of the discipline.
The new rules feature significantly higher on-throttle time around the mile and a half intermediate tracks that comprise a majority of the schedule. And despite statistics that show increased passing at each of these tracks this season, those numbers come with an asterisk.
While there is truth to the distinction that drivers can pass using a combination of the draft on the straights while taking advantage of a leading driver with aero push in traffic in the corners, the passing numbers are incredibly enhanced by the extreme aero push generated by the eight-inch spoilers.
Thus, once a pursuing driver completes a pass, he then suffers from the same aero push conditions in the corners in traffic and the trailing car is able to return the favor — think Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman at Chicagoland Speedway a few weeks ago.
As a result of so much dirty air, drivers have had to adapt to this new reality by throwing blocks to maintain track position, something Kevin Harvick says would have run drivers out of the sport prior to the introduction of this style of racing.
“If you drove like this 10 years ago, you’d have had a fist in your mouth,” Harvick said on Friday at New Hampshire. “What changed were the rules and when every spot becomes that much more difficult to achieve, you have to defend the spots that you have because you know that you might not get it back, and you know that you have to block.
“Blocking is a part of what we do. Defending your position is a part of what we do and it’s just an evolution of where this rules package is.”
Harvick said he was down a couple of cylinders last weekend at Kentucky and was only three-tenths off the pace with this underpowered package, so only losing a small amount of time. As a result, Harvick spent much of the race successfully blocking until he lost all of his track position.
“You can keep somebody behind you (by) side-drafting and blocking and all those things that if they’re directly behind you, there’s no way they’ll pass you because of the aero,” he said.
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