As opposed to how they acted the last time NASCAR used a high-drag aerodynamic package, drivers were mostly reserved with their criticisms following Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.
It wasn’t necessarily what drivers said, but how they said it — and in a couple of notable instances, how they expressed their disdain for a rules package that largely failed to generate additional passing opportunities NASCAR officials intended.
“It wasn’t fun,” Brad Keselowski said. “It wasn’t the worst I have ever seen but this package increasingly rewards the car over the driver and I am not a fan of that.”
But it was how the normally candid Keselowski responded when asked an opinion on the high-drag package that revealed his true feelings.
“It doesn’t matter what my thoughts and observations are, it is what NASCAR wants,” he said. “Whatever they want to do.”
Kevin Harvick, who finished second to race winner Matt Kenseth, didn’t even bother to answer a similar question from reporters Sunday. Instead, the defending Sprint Cup avoided the topic altogether.
“I’m really proud of my team and the things that they did to prepare for the race,” Harvick said. “We had a good, strong day.”
Michigan was the second — and likely last — event where NASCAR attempted to improve competition by utilizing a package featuring a three-inch raised spoiler that would produce pack racing and slingshot passes. However, the majority of passing and side-by-side racing occurred following restarts, before the field fanned out with drivers fighting to maintain control in the turbulent air created by the car in front.
Kenseth led 73 percent of the laps Sunday, the highest percentage through 23 races this season.
How the Pure Michigan 400 unfolded was comparable to last month’s debut of the high-drag package at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That race also saw drivers struggled to pass and run predominantly nose-to-tail, as they were unable to pull alongside other cars.
Several drivers were highly critical after the Brickyard 400.. Kenseth said the package was terrible, with Harvick calling it a “science experiment” that wasted a ton of money.
The remarks were less pointed Sunday, though the tone was familiar.
“It was hard,” said Logano of passing. “Really, really, really hard.”
Said Denny Hamlin, Kenseth’s teammate: “It was tough, definitely tough to pass. Obviously Matt had a great car today and we did too. We had a great car on the long runs, but restarts are where we really, really struggled and just couldn’t overcome the dirty air once we got singled out or single file out there.”
NASCAR announced Friday that the original 2015 aerodynamic package would remain unchanged for its 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs that begins next month.
The sanctioning body is attempting to determine a rules configuration for next season. A low-downforce was ran to much acclaim last month at Kentucky Speedway and will be used again Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway.