NASCAR’s annual pre-season media briefing was light on major revelations, but several competition items were confirmed or clarified ahead of the three national series’ arrival at Daytona’s speedway next week.
What you need to know:
No changes to how NASCAR will operate on race weekends, but the series revealed that it began using rapid COVID tests near the end of 2020 and will have those available this season. Officials have also addressed the proper use of PPE with competitors, mainly mask-wearing.
“It has been addressed,” said John Bobo, NASCAR Vice President of racing operations. “We have talked to the drivers about ways they can earn penalties. Not only do you need to wear a mask, you need to wear a good mask. You need to wear double the mask if you can, especially as the rate of transmission can increase with some of these variants.
“We talked to them about the reality of Florida, as they come to Florida, and all the more reason to keep them safe. It is also (to) their advantage to keep competing.”
The Daytona road course will again have a chicane off oval Turn 4 and before the start/finish line. However, officials will switch to the low downforce, high horsepower aero package for both the Busch Clash on Feb. 9 and the points event on the course on Feb. 21.
The hope is to use the same aero package for the new road course events on the schedule: Circuit of the Americas, Road America, and Indianapolis.
A complete format for the dirt race at Bristol Motorsport is still being determined. But heat races will be a part of the festivities. The race will be 250 laps.
NASCAR made a rule change concerning pit crew members who touch/fall over the pit wall. Previously, it would result in a penalty of too many men over the wall, but the NASCAR Rule Book was adjusted to say that a crew member “may not substantially or purposely contact the pit road surface.”
The Cup Series will continue to start 40 drivers. There will be a field of 36 cars in the Xfinity Series when qualifying is held at certain races but expand to 40 vehicles when there is no qualifying. The same will apply to the Camping World Truck Series.
According to John Probst, NASCAR senior vice president of racing innovation and racing development, “as far as us running the car for the sake of gathering data, we’re done with the development of the car at this point.”
It has been tested nine times on a variety of tracks. The focus will shift to tire, manufacturer, and organization testing next.
The car will return to the track on March 16-17 at Richmond Raceway for a Goodyear tire test. Other tire tests will be at Darlington, Texas, and Bristol.
Coming near the end of March will be the three manufacturers putting their cars on track together at Martinsville Speedway for a wheel-force data test.
Speaking of the manufacturers, all three OEMs have passed the submission process for their designs, and their unveiling will be in the spring. Teams are expected to receive their Next Gen cars in mid-June.
The car will have its first crash test later this year at the University of Nebraska.