Here’s a quick Q&A — with myself — to help explain Wednesday’s news that NASCAR will move toward flange-fit composite bodies in the Xfinity Series:
Uh, what is this?
OK, so you know how all stock car bodies in NASCAR’s national series are made of one steel piece? NASCAR is looking to change that in the Xfinity Series by introducing something called flange-fit composite bodies.
I had to Google this, but a flange is basically an attachment, like a hook. And then composite describes the laminate material the body will be made of.
I don’t really get it. How’s that going to work, exactly?
There are now going to be 13 composite panels that make up an Xfinity Series body, held together by these flanges. Remember those 3D jigsaw puzzles? It’s kinda like that, from what I gather.
That’s crazy!!! Why in the world would NASCAR do that?
Racing is expensive and this is going to save teams some sweet, sweet cash in several different ways. Also, it should promote parity if it works.
OK. How and how?
The cost savings part is legit. Let’s say a car wrecks in practice and the body is pretty much junk, but the chassis is still good. Well instead of pulling out a backup car, now the team can just take the damaged panel off and put a new one on. And if there’s a crash during the race, it will be way less of a time suck to just replace the panels as opposed to hanging a new steel body on the chassis once the team gets back to the shop.
As for parity? Well, everyone is going to be running the same panels and they are supposedly tamper-proof with security features that will prevent teams from manipulating them for aero advantages.
Can they change the panels during the race?
Nope, because the five-minute clock will still be in effect for crash damage and it would take too long to swap out the panels.
Huh. But the teams can’t possibly be on board with this, right?
NASCAR says they are. Officials say the teams have been asking for this and worked with NASCAR and the manufacturers on this project. And apparently NASCAR got some strong buy-in, because officials are expecting all but a few teams to run it at the first available opportunity — even though it’s optional.
When is that? You got this far down in the story and didn’t even say when this is all happening.
Sorry, my bad. It’s Richmond, Dover and Phoenix this fall, and then all races except for superspeedways next season.
Wait, back up a couple questions. Did you say this is optional? If so, why wouldn’t some teams keep running the steel bodies in the future?
As of right now, steel bodies likely offer a competitive advantage over composite bodies because teams can manipulate them right up to the edge of the rules.
But in the near future, that may not be the case. Brett Bodine, NASCAR Senior Director of R&D, hinted there would be competition restrictions on the steel bodies that would make them heavier and take the incentive away to use them next year.
Clearly, NASCAR wants composite bodies to be the wave of the future.
Oh. So they’re coming to Cup then, probably.
Eh, maybe. But NASCAR won’t say that and wouldn’t go there on Wednesday. Officials insist they’re “100 percent focused” on seeing how it works in Xfinity first.
And by the way, NASCAR says fans won’t be able to tell the difference between a steel car and a flange/composite car by just watching from the stands or on TV.
Interesting. Well, it doesn’t sound all bad. Did NASCAR do something right?
We’ll have to wait and see, but at least it seems that way on first glance.
NEWS: XFINITY Series teams to have flange-fit composite body option in 2017.
— NASCAR XFINITY (@NASCAR_XFINITY) August 9, 2017