If you watched the opening weekend of NASCAR practice and racing at Daytona, you likely noticed the cars look…uh…different.
The cars appear like they’re crab-walking down the straightaways, except going the opposite direction than everyone is used to seeing. Instead of being pointed into the corners, they actually seem angled toward the wall.
“They look broken,” Danica Patrick said.
“It’s definitely weird to see,” Chase Elliott said.
“Is that an interesting look for you?” Bubba Wallace asked. “You’re like, ‘What the hell…?’”
I mean, yeah. We are.
So what’s the deal? Well, let’s talk about reverse skew!
WHY ARE TEAMS DOING THIS?
There hasn’t been a ride height rule at non-plate tracks for a few years now, but there was still a rule at Daytona and Talladega until this year. But NASCAR decided to get rid of the mandated ride heights at the plate tracks, which supposedly will help the cars not go airborne as easily.
The smart people in the garage immediately figured out a way they could take advantage of the new rule: By doing the opposite of what they do at intermediate tracks.
“Basically, everything we’ll do to gain skew at Atlanta next week, we just do opposite here to get the spoiler out of the (air),” David Ragan said.
As Ryan Blaney explained, teams want the spoiler in the air at other tracks so the car will go through the corners faster. It adds more side force and downforce.
“Here, you don’t really want that,” Blaney said. “You want to get the spoiler out of the air as much as possible, so that’s why they reverse it. It knocks drag out.”
By turning the cars toward the wall, the spoiler ducks behind the car a bit more. Thus, it creates speed.
IS IT HARDER TO DRIVE?
For sure. The more skewed the cars are, the worse they handle. That’s one reason why the Clash ran single file toward the end — the drivers were just trying to hang on and had difficulty racing side-by-side.
“There are a couple cars that are really aggressive with it, but when you do that, they don’t race as well,” Blaney said. “They handle worse. So that’s been interesting to see who all is doing it that much or how low you want to get the back end.
“I about wrecked (Saturday in practice) when we lowered it a bit more. I just couldn’t drive it. It was too loose.”
It’s going to be a tradeoff between speed and stability — something teams didn’t really have to worry about as much at plate tracks in recent years, when drivers could just hold it wide open and side-draft the crap out of each other.
Would you rather have a fast car or a comfortable one? That’s what teams will try to find in the Duels and practice sessions this week.
“It’s not going to drive the greatest, but I’ve always said as long as we’re fast — (even) if it drives like a dump truck — we’re fine,” Wallace said.
IS IT LEGAL?
Yep. The teams are playing within the rules set by NASCAR. They still have to pass inspection — and the new technology for inspection is even better than before.
It’s hard to get straight answers from the teams about their methods (“I’m not going to tell you that,” Greg Ives said), but some of the skew is achieved by setup and some of it is achieved by adjusting the track bar from inside the car (controlled by the driver).
“There’s a handful of ways you can get there,” Chase Elliott said. “I’m sure guys are adjusting track bars to do it. There’s so many other things you can do to make that happen. There’s no way everybody is doing it the same way.”
SHOULD NASCAR MAKE IT ILLEGAL?
If you recall, NASCAR didn’t like the cars looking so sideways in 2011 and later implemented rules to limit skew in the rear ends. So will it do the same thing now?
Not likely. This is only something you’ll notice at plate tracks, and it’s not very noticeable when the cars are in a pack.
The drivers can see it from inside the cockpits, though. And it’s quite a view.
“I’m sitting there behind cars and I’m like, ‘Damn, we’re on the earth. We’re digging right here,’” Wallace said. “We’re just trying to get as much speed as we can. Whatever you’ve got to do inside the parameters in what the rulebook says, you do it — no matter how it looks.”