NASCAR considers unveiling 2016 rules at Sprint All-Star Race in May

2 Comments

CHARLOTTE – The Sprint All-Star Race often is described as a glorified test session for the Coca-Cola 600.

This year’s event at Charlotte Motor Speedway might be a test session for an entire season.

NASCAR heavily is considering using the May 16 showcase as a trial run of the rules package for the 2016 season and has begun informing Sprint Cup teams of the possibility, multiple sources have told MotorSportsTalk.

During a state of the sport address to open Monday’s Media Tour, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell noted the All-Star Race was the goal for unveiling the rules for next season. The 2015 rules were delivered in September, which O’Donnell said was the earliest release yet.

“We anticipate beating that marker in 2016, and we’ll look to bring the rules package to the teams as early as we can with a target date of around the All-Star Race for this year,” O’Donnell said.

An official with direct knowledge of the All-Star Race proposal said Charlotte Motor Speedway and Sprint were supportive of using the 2016 rules because it also would prevent teams from getting a jump on preparing for the Coca-Cola 600 and increasing the likelihood of a lackluster race. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan wasn’t finalized.

The Sprint All-Star Race could use a jolt of relevance. In nine editions since the repaving of Charlotte in 2006, there has been one lead during the final five laps of an event billed as promoting a no-holds-barred style. In the past three Sprint All-Star Races, the winner has led the final 10 laps.

But a potential drawback for NASCAR could be whether the sneak preview of the 2016 rules delivers a better version of the racing than with the current rules that will be featured over four hours the following week at Charlotte in the season’s longest race.

There’s no timetable for the decision on using next year’s rules in the All-Star Race, but NASCAR tested some ideas for next year during a session last month at Charlotte. More testing is expected to occur at Atlanta Motor Speedway next month and at Charlotte in March.

This year’s rules will feature a significant decline in downforce and a reduction of about 125 horsepower. Another cut in downforce is expected in 2016, which will make cars’ handling more difficult.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
1 Comment

SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).