Race Weekend Central

Vexing Vito: MIS Aero Package NASCAR’s Next Attempt at Increasing Competition

This weekend’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway will mark the third attempt by NASCAR to test the unique-to-tracks proposed 2016 rules package – and potentially the 2015 Chase package as well.

Whereas the race at Kentucky Speedway featured the low drag/low downforce package, Michigan International Speedway will see the high drag/high downforce package that was used at The Brickyard. While the results at Indianapolis were less than encouraging with virtually no difference in competition experienced, MIS may prove to be a bit more favorable to this package. To refresh your memory, this package will consist of:

  • 9-inch rear spoiler with 1-inch wicker bill
  • Lower rear fascia panel similar to what is ran at Daytona and Talladega
  • 2-inch leading edge on the front splitter
  • 43-inch splitter panel

The common refrain among drivers leaving Indy was that while the cars appeared to suck up a little bit better on the straightaway, once they got to the turn there was nothing they could do. The existing problem of no air on the nose and being unable to turn under somebody was exacerbated with the increased downforce in the rear of the car. Coupled with a lack of horsepower to execute any run that might be gained down the backstretch, the package was further compromised with the fact that Indy is a one-groove around-the-bottom racetrack – at best.

MIS on the other hand is well-known for offering multiple racing grooves, with virtually half of the track being a high-banked turn. A push will kill a car at Michigan, and if a driver doesn’t have the ponies to make it up down the frontstretch or the back, they will find themselves being passed in a hurry. This presents a couple of potential scenarios we might see Sunday:

  1. Cars get spread out in the corners and line up single-file down the front and backstretch to maintain position, executing passes going into the corner, using multiple lanes in the five-wide turns.
  2. Ends up being like an Xfinity Series race, and the field gets really strung out, as cars just end up running where they will handle without much lifting. Due to a lack of cautions it turns into a gas mileage race like at Pocono two weeks ago or a typical 1990s MIS race.

The forecast for Sunday looks to be mostly sunny with a high of 86-degrees. The track will be hot and slick, with handling at a premium; even with the recently repaved surface maintaining its grip despite Michigan’s soul-crushing winters. While I think scenario B above is the most likely, I don’t think it will turn into a gas mileage race – not for the third week in a row. I’m sure there will be an errant piece of tape, Gatorade bottle, or roll bar pad get sucked out of a car due to – uh – turbulence – created by the new aero configuration…..

I also do not believe it will engender any of the pack racing that appears to the hope for what brought about this particular rules package as well. Michigan isn’t Talladega, and these aren’t IROC cars despite how equal they are being made to be. What this package really needs to excel here with this package are specific tires and the horsepower that was removed for 2015. While the cars are making roughly the power they were 15 years ago, they will have much more drag and downforce than they did then. Horsepower is needed to overcome drag, and would make those runs down the front and backstretch more pronounced and effective if they had the extra momentum to complete a pass – or prevent a driver getting clear exiting turn two as things tighten up off the corner.

With two more tests pending at Darlington and Richmond next month, NASCAR Executive Vice President & Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said during The Morning Drive on Sirius XM that team would know by the end of this week or soon after the Michigan race what rules package would ultimately be in place for The Chase in 2015. “Not lost on us is how much work has been done by all our teams to prepare to even get us to Michigan and then Darlington. We’re really appreciative of the hard work, and we owe it to them to get the word out now and let them prepare for the Chase.”

The Pure Michigan 400 airs on NBC Sports Network at 2:00pm ET on Sunday, with live qualifying Friday afternoon, also on NBCSN at 4:45pm ET.

About the author


Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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