With the new aerodynamic rules package for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series being put to the test for the first time this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Andy Petree, Vice President of Competition at RCR, talked about the changes fans can expect to see and how RCR has prepared for them during the off-season.
Can you give us a 101 lesson on the new rules package?
“What the new rules package boils down to is the race cars will have a higher drag and way more downforce than what we’ve been running previously. With that, along with lower power, the theory is that we can slow the straightaway speeds to get the cars racing closer together.
“What we had before was entry speeds that were way above 200 mph at a lot of the 1.5-mile tracks, so that tends to spread the cars out. Say the cars are going 205 mph into the corner, they’re having to slow down to about 150 to 160 mph for the corners before accelerating again. This package, with a lot bigger spoilers and more drag and downforce, will not allow the cars to get near that fast on the straightaways. They’ll stay closer to 180 mph but have more stable speed through the corners and won’t have to slow down as much.
“To be able to have the cars race closer and side-by-side is the theory of this new package.”
How will this new package change our race strategy at RCR?
“Well, there are a couple things we are considering based on what kind of cars we’re taking to the track for this package. I can’t reveal everything, but the new package will affect some of the ways we strategize the race. We won’t really know just how much it will affect our strategy until we run a couple races with it and see how they play out.
“We have a lot of tools that we use to determine our strategy and those will adjust on the fly in real time. As we go into this first race at Atlanta, we will probably not have a set strategy. It will instead be similar to what we had last year until we see what unfolds.”
In terms of here at the shop, what have the guys had to do to prepare for this package?
“We’re building a lot of new cars due to this package, which is something the crew guys have had to work on. The older car is adaptable, but we want to optimize this package, so we’ve done some things with the cars, chassis and engines, among other things, to maximize the changes this new rules package brings. We’re really busy with that. We’re probably building for these first five races, probably upwards of a dozen cars.
“We have also utilized our simulation programs extensively, and it has been a really useful tool in preparing for this season.”
“I’m sure other teams are doing that as well. Without having too much on-track testing to be able to go out and validate our predictions about this package, simulation is really our primary tool.
“Now we’re looking at Atlanta with the weather looking kind of questionable this weekend, we better hope all of our assumptions are right because we’ll have to rely on them with potentially not much practice time.
“What I love about new rules and a new package is it offers up some different decisions to be made, and it’ll be interesting to see who goes which direction and whether our decisions are correct. We feel like they are, but we’ll see when we get it to the first race.”