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Reduction of speed not gaining traction in Sprint Cup Series garage

Posted: May 6, 2014 - 11:26pm  |  Updated: May 6, 2014 - 11:48pm
Trevor Bayne leads the pack during the Aaron's 499 on Sunday at Talladega.  AP
AP
Trevor Bayne leads the pack during the Aaron's 499 on Sunday at Talladega.

Now that most are happy with the new Generation-6 race car, NASCAR said it will make a major overhaul for next season.

While drivers and fans are pleased with the level of racing this season, the sanctioning body is expected to announce changes to the engine, aerodynamic, downforce and tire packages in the next two weeks.

The ultimate goal is a 100-horsepower reduction in engine power, NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell said. Added with other changes, NASCAR hopes to increase lead changes in the final 10 laps.

Slowing the cars down, however, will lead to fewer passes, many drivers said. By reducing speeds, it will be easier to stay full throttle all the way around the track, which actually increases speeds in the corners.

“Every driver and team that I have spoken to isn’t up for a horsepower reduction,” said six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. “We all feel that having power creates better racing, especially on the driver’s standpoint where you go down to the Nationwide Series and run flat out at a lot of the tracks.”

During a recent tire test at Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR restricted the engine on Trevor Bayne’s Ford to test their idea. They might have been surprised to learn Bayne’s car was nearly 10 mph faster in the turns than everyone else with unrestricted engines.

It wasn’t that long ago when NASCAR engines produced about 600 horsepower. Now they’re capable of 900 horsepower. The fix, car owner Jack Roush said, is likely to come with the intake that regulates the flow of gasoline and air into the engine. By reducing the throttle body, speeds will drop off the same way as engines with restrictor plates at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

Changing the engine package also will drive up costs for the four engine companies in the sport — Toyota Racing Development, Earnhardt Childress Racing, Roush Yates Engines and Hendrick Motorsports, driver and former car owner Kevin Harvick said.

And if cars are quicker in the turns, it also will reduce the number of passes, he said. Faster corner speeds make it less likely cars will be able to race side-by-side.

“... You are going to be able to carry more speed through the center of the corner because you have a slower car,” Harvick said. “When you start messing with the engines, the costs are going to go up because everybody is going to do more R&D.”

Johnson also is concerned with the costs.

“No rule change is cheap anymore, because it’s not just a single piece or component to change, there is a domino effect that changes a lot of things,” he said.

A current Spring Cup engine costs as much as $100,000.

Card Edwards is eager to see changes in the aerodynamic and downforce areas. He’d like the see a lot of the gadgets removed from the car so the driver will be more important to the car’s success.

A driver also should be more responsible for tire management, he said.

But like most, he’s not in favor of reducing power.

“When I first heard the horsepower change, I thought, ‘Oh man, this is not going to be good,’ ” Edwards said.