If you’re enjoying the racing NASCAR’s 2019 rules have provided, the sanctioning body has some good news for you. If you’re not, well, wait until 2021.
NASCAR said Tuesday that the 2020 Cup Series car rules would be basically unchanged from 2019. The governing body added a lot of downforce to Cup Series cars and reduced horsepower in the engines this season after years of taking away downforce in attempts to provide better racing.
“The 2019 season has produced great racing and we anticipate the level of competition to continue to rise as teams build off this rules package in 2020,” NASCAR vice president John Probst said in a statement “Collectively, we continue to work closely as an industry to put on the best racing possible for our fans, while working diligently on the Next Gen car, scheduled to make its debut in 2021.”
The current generation of Cup Series car has been in use since 2013. 2020 will be the final season as NASCAR works towards a new concept for the 2021 Cup Series cars. So you can expect a lot of new technical specifications in 2021.
The great racing in 2019 that Probst references has been largely in the eye of the beholder. The close racing on restarts that the rules are designed for has come to fruition. The first few laps after every restart can be visually pleasing as drivers scramble for position and make aggressive moves.
Drivers scramble hard for position and make aggressive moves in the moments after restarts because they know they may not get the opportunity to do that again as the racing gets strung out. Drivers have been vocal in 2019 about the increased difficulty of passing competitors because of the increased effects of dirty air.
Dirty air is the turbulent air that comes off a car ahead of another car. As NASCAR increased the significance of aerodynamic downforce via its 2019 rules, it also increased the significance of dirty air. Especially coupled with engine horsepower reductions at larger tracks. With added downforce and lower horsepower at intermediate tracks, cars have gone considerably slower this season even though drivers are spending more time in the throttle.
The increase in on-throttle time is in direct contrast with the thoughts of many in and around racing who believe that increased time off-throttle leads to more passing opportunities and better racing.
Chassis, wind tunnel limits put in place
NASCAR will have a limit on the number of chassis a team can have “active” at any given time during a season. Teams will be limited to 12 “active” chassis and four “inactive” chassis. That means a four-car team like Joe Gibbs Racing can have 48 “active” chassis and 16 “inactive” chassis.
“Chassis can be decertified or retired only after use in a minimum of three races or if damage from a crash is deemed irreparable,” the statement on NASCAR’s site said. “Chassis designated for the preseason Clash exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway will not count against a car number’s active allotment unless that chassis is also used in the Daytona 500.”
NASCAR is also limiting teams to 150 hours of wind-tunnel testing per season after allowing teams to do as much wind-tunnel testing as they wanted in previous years. Approved wind-tunnel testing will only be allowed at four locations.
Both changes are designed to help teams cut down on costs. As teams spend money to compete in 2020 and also spend money to prepare to build brand-new cars to whatever the 2021 car specifications end up being over the next season it’s going to be an extremely busy and costly season for both resource-rich and resource-scarce teams.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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