Michigan race package draws muted response from NASCAR drivers – USA TODAY
BROOKLYN, Mich.Â âÂ NASCARâs high-drag aerodynamic package got its second race test Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400, and post-race reactions from drivers ranged from outright disapproval to muffled disappointment.
Matt Kenseth won the race in dominant fashion, leading 146 of 200 laps. He rarely was challenged at the front at Michigan International Speedwayâs high-speed, 2-mile layout. Most significant passing in the top 10 was done on the first few laps after a restart, when drivers spanned three or four-wide in an attempt to make up ground before the lead car got away in clean air.
Martin Truex Jr. finished third but said he would have had a shot at winning under different circumstances.
âWe could run anybody down and get to them,â Truex Jr. told USA TODAY Sports. âBut it took a long time to pass cars. It was just so damn hard to pass. I could run a guy down from way back and get to him and about spin out. Itâs no fun to race like that. We had a car that could have contended with the 20 (Kenseth) today and just couldnât ever get there.â
Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski avoided criticizing the package but said a lot in not saying very much.
âItâs not my deal, man,â Keselowski said. âItâs not my right to say. Itâs not my sport, so whatever they want to do, weâll race it. Thatâs my job. I think we saw almost exactly what everybody thought weâd see. Iâll let you guys (media) judge whether that was good or bad.â
Asked what he thought of the package results, Logano said, âWhat did you think?â Told there wasnât much passing, he said, âThatâs what I thought, too.â
Asked if he wanted to see the package tried again, Logano simply said, âNo.â
WATCH: Final laps of Pure Michigan 400
The high-drag package was used for the first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month and had little impact on improving passing opportunities. TheÂ package was created in an attempt to dramatically increase passing and provide more exciting racing, especially at NASCARâs intermediate tracks, per chairman Brian Franceâs request.
NASCAR communications official David Higdon said NASCAR will look at data from Sundayâs race, along with other aero package tests, and take input from drivers. The sanctioning body is trying to determine which package will work best for 2016. Executive vice president Steve OâDonnell announced Friday that despite the experimentation there will be no changes in aero rules for the 10 Chase races this season.
Kevin Harvick finished second but passed up the opportunity to comment directly when asked about the package. âIâm really proud of my team and the things that they did to prepare for the race, and we had a good, strong day,â he said instead.
Denny Hamlin, who finished fifth and failed to lead a lap, told USA TODAY Sports: âItâs not what I would prefer, obviously. Passing is very, very difficult; thereâs no doubt about it. I think thereâs light at the end of the tunnel. I think weâve seen whatâs best. Hopefully, these NASCAR fans get what they want in the future.â
Hamlin could have been alluding to the low-downforce package NASCAR used at 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in July, which was a hit, providing the most exciting racing of the season so far in 23 events and what most Cup drivers in the garage have said they would prefer NASCAR go with in 2016. That package returns once more this season, at Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend.
Hamlin said he expected more accidents.
âYouâve got to be very edgy in the corners,â he said. âIâm really surprised we didnât see more wrecks. But the lead car has a huge advantage. Itâs going to be hard for the second-place car to pass the leader when the leader can run wide open.â
And Kensethâs view? âI didnât see much of the race, which was totally fine with me,â he said, smiling. âWe were up front, and thatâs what you want.â
Follow Hembree on Twitter @mikehembree
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