2017 Cup Series Rule Change analysis

Happy 2017! We are fast approaching a new year of racing, with a new sponsor and new premiere series name. Along with that comes a few changes and I’d like to explore them a little, give you my feedback, and see what you all think. So let’s get in and get on with it!

First of all, welcome new series sponsor…. Monster Energy! Monster brings with it some new fans, some new ideas, and some news things that will be hard to say. Say it with me, “Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series” which differentiates it from the Monster Energy Cup which is the series name for the popular Supercross series. I know, it’s going to be rough getting through, but let’s just abbreviate it, MEN Cup Series. Wait, scratch that. That sounds like an athletic supporter! So I will call it the Cup Series, as I always have.

Lets look at the safety changes next. These are just all around good ideas. Roof Hatch will be mandatory on all cars at Daytona and Talladega for the Cup Series and Xfinty Series cars. Why? It gives all drivers another option for egress, very quickly. It will also be optional at all other venues. It makes sense. If it is easier to get out and quicker in case of fire or other danger, why not have it available? It has also been mandated that Energy Absorbing Material must be used to reinforce the toe box, leg area, to help prevent injuries like those sustained by Kyle Busch. This is mandatory at Daytona and Talladega. NASCAR has also raised the minimum weight for cars by 20 pounds to encourage this at ALL venues. Again, it’s a great idea and could save a driver. Why wouldn’t you do it?

Now on to the fun, the competition changes. Of course, there may be more coming, so watch for the next article, but this is just an overview of what’s known right now…

Restrictor Plates! The fun, the fun, the fun. Yes, everyone knew it would be happening because it seems we can’t keep the same plate for long. So what are we gonna do with it? Make it smaller. Yes, we are gonna starve these motors a little more, choke them down and take away power. This means throttle response will be worse. You hit the throttle and… wait for it…. wait for it… wait for it… Now go! If you get out of the throttle anywhere, you are losing positions, fast! That’s gonna make the cars slower at Daytona and Talladega, right?

NO! The Restrictor plate is essentially a balance to our next change, the rear spoiler. Yes, we have tried to mess with it, we have tried high downforce and low downforce packages. NASCAR  Cup series was at 3.5 inches, well, we tried 2.5 inches and everyone loved it! So we are going to a 2.5 inch spoiler, right? No. No we aren’t. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, so we are cutting that sucker down to 2.35 inches. Put your thumbs together, side by side… That’s the height of your spoiler now.

Cutting the spoiler down will have a few results. First thing, faster! That’s why we closed up the plates. Faster is great on the straights, but that means a lot less downforce for corners. Less downforce on the rear means you will have to reduce the downforce up front or you will get a perpetually loose car. That means the rear end is going to want to come around faster when you turn the wheel, which means the teams will be working even harder on side force. The air pressure along the side of the car will help keep it headed in the right direction when you turn the wheel. That means if you like the drinking game, side force is your key phrase every week. All of this, puts more on the driver and that creates better racing, so… I’m kind of excited. It will benefit some and hurt others.

“Tires Cole, tires. Tires is what wins races.” This year, we are going to notice a small adjustment in tire allotment for the Cup Series. For ease, I am starting with the last race, Homestead-Miami. The Finale. Teams will have 2 fewer sets of tires for the weekend. Daytona 500, Phoenix, Auto Club Speedway, Martinsville, Bristol, Kansas, Kentucky, and Chicagoland teams will be issued one less set for the weekend. That’s going to put some strategy back into these races. You can’t stop everytime and take 4 tires if you get a caution heavy race.

There’s a few events that will receive one additional set; Daytona (summer night),  Talladega, Sonoma, New Hampshire, Watkins Glen, and Darlington. Darlington you could give them 40 sets for the weekend and they would still want more, so that just makes sense. Sonoma, Watkins Glen…. They don’t use their allotment of tires and try to only pit twice so that doesn’t matter a whole lot. The only track it might really help at is New Hampshire. Other than that, it’s an extra set to practice on.

We do have one last tire rule, it’s going to make things… INTERESTING. Cup Series must start on the same tires they qualified on. Not a big deal, right? Well, it could be. If you make it to the third session of qualifying, you may have as many as six additional laps on your tires compared to someone who did not make the final round. You may have upwards of 12 more laps on your tires than those who didn’t make the second session. Provided qualifying stays the same… Let’s say you make the final round but had to go out twice in the first round, twice in the second round, once in the third. 3 laps each time, that’s 15 laps. You qualify 10th or 12th, now the guy in 13th may have gone out once in the first, once in the second, he has 9 laps less on his tires. This means his tires may be as much as a second faster than your’s. So you will need to play strategy to get your best possible start. Qualifying 13-15 may be better than qualifying 10-12. This can make the opening laps a lot more fun.

This is all that is known for sure right now. Monday at 6pm NASCAR will have an announcement live on The NASCAR app. It is quite possible that they may be announcing a new qualifying format and/or a new points format. They may award points in qualifying or they may award points at multiple times during a race like IMSA does for their Endurance Cup in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. There may be other changes, maybe even… MONSTER changes! Ha! See what I did there? Yeah, lame, but it’s a free article. I will await the changes before I get too deep into them, because I don’t want to get people excited or upset about what may or may not happen.

See you from the box!

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