2015 Sprint Cup rules to feature reduced testing, less horsepower

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As expected, NASCAR has released its 2015 Sprint Cup rules package to teams today. And as expected, it contains some major changes.

At the top of the list are a ban on private team testing at any tracks following the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and a reduction in horsepower from 850-900 down to 725 with the use of a tapered spacer (which is already used in the Nationwide Series).

Additionally, the rear spoiler will be cut to six inches, giving drivers less downforce to work with on their cars.

In regards to testing, Goodyear will work with NASCAR and the Sprint Cup teams to select tracks for tire test sessions. Also, the “Preseason Thunder” sessions at Daytona International Speedway have been eliminated.

“The teams have asked for more productive sessions with all of us included,” O’Donnell told USA Today writer and NASCAR on NBC contributor Nate Ryan. “If we can have NASCAR, Goodyear and the race teams all together, it’ll be a home run.

“The second part is anytime you can minimize costs, that’s big. We think we’ve done both.”

The rules package comes after teams tested various aero configurations and power levels last month at Michigan International Speedway.

Drivers that took part in the Michigan session said they preferred a configuration with less downforce but retained the current 850-900 horsepower. It appears that those drivers will get some of what they wanted (the downforce part), but not all (current-level or additional horsepower).

However, O’Donnell thinks the new package will lead to what NASCAR’s been going after for some time now: A better on-track product on its 1.5-to-2-mile, intermediate ovals.

“We believe what will contribute to better racing is the ability to get off the gas in the corners,” O’Donnell said to Ryan. “If you’re able to slow down the straightaway speeds a bit, but really affect the speeds in the corners – where drivers have to make decisions on how much they want to get off the throttle – it allows for more passing in the turns, and it allows for tire manufacturer to really march toward a grippier tire.

“That will contribute to even better racing.”

Other changes on tap for 2015 include:

  • The addition of rain tires for Sprint Cup road course events with mandatory wipers, defogger and rear flashing rain light at the start of those events
  • An option to have a panhard bar in the cockpit to allow drivers to make suspension adjustments
  • A new video system for officiating in the pits that will have officials analyze cameras and software (some officials will still be in the pits for team communication purposes)
  • An online rule-book for teams with computer animation and 3-D illustrations

A full list of the 2015 changes can be found here.

Today’s edition of NASCAR AMERICA will have more details on the 2015 rules package. You can watch it today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for your online/mobile device.

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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