NASCAR outlaws the practice of flared fender side skirts

10 Comments

There’ll be no skirting the issue of side skirts in NASCAR in 2015.

Prior to NASCAR Chairman Brian France’s State of the Sport address Monday afternoon, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell made it very clear that the manipulation of side skirts will not be allowed in 2015.

Several teams pulled out the side skirts in front of the rear wheels – particularly the right “passenger” side of the car – during pit stops last season to achieve what they believed might be a slight aerodynamic benefit, essentially turning the side skirts into a type of fender flare.

The action was typically done on the first pit stop of a race because a car has to have the side skirts straight and in conformity with NASCAR templates and rules during pre-race inspection.

The practice was used by only a few teams initially, but became more commonplace later in the season – particularly during the Chase for the Sprint Cup – as teams believed the flared side skirts allowed for better airflow, particularly over the rear of the car.

NASCAR did not stop the practice last season, but promised a review during the offseason. That review is now complete and flaring of side skirts will not be allowed in 2015.

Here’s what O’Donnell had to say about the new rule prohibiting the side skirt manipulation practice:

It was a much-discussed topic from last year, side skirts. As many of you know, we deliberately decided against any changes near the end of last season.

So in 2015, teams manipulating the fenders or flares during a race will be asked to come back down pit road (to essentially un-flare the side skirts) and we’ll use any means possible to police that, particularly our new pit road officiating system.

We’ll look at that through video and any means possible during the race season.”

O’Donnell did not discuss what, if any penalties will result against teams that violate the new rule

The practice and subsequent new rule against it came after NASCAR consulted with many teams.

“One important note is we looked a lot with our race teams, to talk about what was the best way to do that, and this is where we landed heading into the 2015 season,” O’Donnell said. “We continue to work towards a goal of fair, tight competition, offering our fans the best racing in the world and all of our expectations for competition heading into the Daytona 500 are that it’ll be even better this year.

“We’re not going to rest for 2015, ‘16 or ‘17, but we look forward to continued progress towards that best racing.”

After O’Donnell’s speech, NASCAR Executive Vice President of Competition, Robin Pemberton gave additional clarity to the new rule:

The adjustment on the side skirts and body side, there’s many opinions on it and there’s not really consensus, but when you look at what that is for and that is to change the aerodynamic balance of the car.

We know when we go to Goodyear tire tests that the cars aren’t tested in that way. That is not something that is modeled in any way shape or form or tested.

To be correct with the entire garage area and all of our vendors and suppliers and other people we work with, it’s best to just regulate and keep it in as in the box as we can.”

Pemberton was also asked why NASCAR didn’t outlaw the practice during last season.

“It got to the point where we didn’t feel comfortable with making a change of how we regulated the sport in the middle of the Chase,” Pemberton said. “It’s as simple as that.

“Follow me @JerryBonkowski

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

Leave a comment

Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994