NASCAR is now moving into the ‘who gets in and gets knocked out’ territory with very few races left to make the coveted Chase. Each and every race from this point forward will tell a story, whether that story is Ford being on a back-foot, save Penske, or the changes being made involving the draft, drag and down-force.
Michigan is getting more play than I’ve seen in years due to the higher rear spoilers along with their forward facing lip, known as a wickerbill. I simply can’t recall a time when both the drivers and manufacturers were talking about these changes as much as they are now.
There’s a reason: The teams and drivers don’t really know what to expect.
Are the cars going to draft to the fans expectations or washout in the corners due to the heat that Michigan is expecting.
Brad Keselowski, when asked about the heat factor, replied: “I think the heat is gonna be even worse this weekend. There’s a large amount of concern across both the teams and drivers, really all members, for this rules package coming up to Michigan specific to the fact that even though the track is wider and bigger, the significance of the draft is gonna be even more important, so you’re gonna have to stay in line as much as possible.
As you stay in line the car gets less and less air because that’s essentially how the draft works and the speeds at Michigan are higher than they are at Indianapolis, which means the parts, specifically the drivetrain are gonna be even hotter. I know the team is very, very concerned about the drivetrain, everything from the engine all the way back to the axles because they’re really not made for these temperatures.
I would not be surprised to see a lot of car failures this weekend, specific to heat relation as it pertains to the aero package and its kind of cause and effects. And inside the car I would not be surprised to see a lot of hot and worn out drivers after the race.”
With more heat the engines don’t make the most horsepower and that means carrying as much speed through the corners as possible while hoping the down-force takes over to keep the car planted.
The Michigan track has, in the past, been a multi-groove surface that the Cup cars could take advantage of, maybe not so much this weekend. The cars need to get out of the draft to employ the down-force when approaching a corner.
Keselowski was also asked whether the cars would handle differently than they had at Indianapolis: ” I don’t expect it to be much different as far as the way the cars handle behind each other. Perhaps the only difference could be between the two tracks is Michigan has a much wider groove in theory and the potential to run different lanes in the corners.
The way the aerodynamics work specific to this high draft package certainly you want to be in line down the straightaway to get the maximum effect of the loss of drag, but you kind of want to be staggered in the corners to try to keep your down-force in the corner when you need it to keep the car going through the corners as fast as possible.”
Will the racing be ‘racier’ at Michigan than it has been in the past? We think so. If it’s hot, slick and unbearable in the cars you’re bound to have some things go right and the potential of a whole lot of things going wrong.
The bottom line is it’s the same for everyone, but someone has to stick their neck out if they hope to make or displace someone for the Chase berths that are in bubble territory.
It should be an interesting weekend, especially for the auto manufacturers.