NASCAR announces aerodynamic changes, restrictor plates for Indianapolis XFINITY race

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By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

In an effort to improve the on-track product for the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), NASCAR is throwing the figurative kitchen sink at their machines in the hopes of generating passing on the facility’s flat, 2.5-mile oval.

The sanctioning body confirmed in a statement Thursday news initially reported on Twitter by journalist Michael Knight that the NXS will incorporate the use of 7/8-in. restrictor plates for their July 22 race at the famed ‘Brickyard’, along with a host of other aerodynamic changes.

The move will mark the first time a restrictor plate has been used on a track outside of Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway since a 2000 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The biggest surprise from the announcement comes not from the usage of restrictor plates, but the implementation of what the sanctioning body is calling “aero ducts” on the lower front bumper. The ducts will be designed in an effort to improve airflow through the machine’s front wheel wells, a move that may lead to increased passing opportunities on the flat oval.

NASCAR also intends to use a taller spoiler and rear splitter package to complete the aerodynamic changes.

The organization tested the proposed package on Oct. 11 with Kaulig Racing’s Blake Koch, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed and Richard Childress Racing’s Brandon Jones.

The announcement arrives amidst a difficult era for stock car racing at IMS. With difficult racing and hot July temperatures, NASCAR has struggled to draw crowds to the Indianapolis, Indiana speedway, fostering a slew of takes about the race (including a seething 2016 piece from The Indianapolis Star‘s Gregg Doyel) and speculation about the future of the event with the end of the current sanctioning agreement looming in 2020.

IMS and NASCAR have come into the news frequently as reports broke of different options being explored for the facility’s late July race weekend. The SportsBusiness Journal’s Adam Stern reported on March 15 that NASCAR was considering a move to the races oval, while NBC Sports‘ Nate Ryan reported on March 20 that NASCAR could use the package being tested by the NXS for the 2018 Brickyard 400, as well as races at Michigan International Speedway and Pocono Raceway. NASCAR and IMS have yet to confirm or deny the validity of either report.

The NXS has raced at IMS since 2012, but has often struggled to provide much passing. In fact, back-to-back weekend sweeper Kyle Busch along has led 268 of the track’s 463 laps of NXS competition to date.

An attempt to add excitement to the 2016 edition of the race with the series’ Dash 4 Cash program and heat races largely failed, with just two lead changes and two cautions in the 63-lap feature. The format will be replaced with NASCAR’s new stage races moving forward.

NASCAR.com’s Kenny Bruce wrote detailed story on the announcement, with quotes from Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR senior vice president, innovation and racing development, who said the following about the changes: “We race at 29 tracks (across all three national series) and they’re all very special. Indianapolis has a long history; it’s a wonderful track. Our objective is to give our fans the best possible show we can. We are very proud of being able to participate at Indy; we want to put our best foot forward. We believe we have come up with a package that gives us the best opportunity to do that.”

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