Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

New Xfinity Aero Package at Indianapolis a Step in the Right Direction

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis had been circled on the NASCAR Xfinity Series calendar for several months due to the implementation of a new aerodynamic package for the event and after its first outing, it certainly seems like the sanctioning body is onto something with the package.

In years past, clean air was king at Indianapolis as the leader could just pull away from the field with ease, leading to a lackluster, follow the leader type of a race.

To remedy this, NASCAR unveiled the aero package used on Saturday earlier in the year to try and make the racing around the 2.5 mile, low banked track much closer.

The new package employed the 2016 spoiler and splitter being reimplemented (teams must run the ear flaps on both sides). New aero ducts were supplied by NASCAR at the track, and were attached to the front bumper, and a 7/8-inch restrictor plate was bolted onto the engine.

The aero ducts in the front bumper were designed to move air out through the front wheel wells to create a larger wake behind the car and increase the drafting capability of the trailing car by up to 25%.

As a result of the new aero package, which worked exactly as designed, the lead car was never able to pull away, keeping the cars behind in close contact, resulting in two and three wide racing, passes for position throughout the field and a total of 16 lead changes among eight drivers over the course of the 100-lap race.

Race winner William Byron held off a hard charging Paul Menard over the final laps, leading to the closest finish ever in NASCAR sanctioned race at the track, including the Brickyard 400.

“I felt like we were passing a lot more,” said sixth-place finisher Ryan Reed. “It felt like you could suck up, get runs, play a lot more strategy rather than just ride around single-file once the race got settled out.  I don’t know what happened up front for the win, but it seemed like a decent race, at least better than the ones we’ve had.”

Joey Logano, who challenged for the lead at times throughout the race, also weighed in on the new package.

“The package was really interesting.  You had to race really smart,” said Logano. “You just had to be smart on restarts and knowing when to race guys and when to just keep momentum because if you started losing momentum you lost five or six spots.  Being smart inside the car was key.”

“You’ve got a restrictor plate on them.  You’ve got a lot of drag.  You’re kind of going down the straightaway like, ‘Where is the end of it?’  But the cars get such a big run down the straightaway.  It’s pretty amazing, but there’s still that bubble kind of in between cars that the cars kind of stop and they stall out for the most part.  Sometimes you can get a good enough run to make the move, but it’s tough.”

If Saturday’s race is any indication, the Indianapolis aero package should be considered for use in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starting in 2018 to help spice up the Brickyard 400, which has also suffered from lackluster racing throughout the years.

Cup Series driver Landon Cassill certainly seems to be a fan of the new package, as evidenced by his tweet on Saturday.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.