What the hell are flange-fit composite bodies, and why do they matter?

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.

21 Replies to “What the hell are flange-fit composite bodies, and why do they matter?”

  1. I’m guessing these are the same bodies that ARCA has been running and will be the only thing allowed next year for them.

  2. All it will do at the Xfinity level is separate the haves from the have nots even more. Now instead of the body being the most important aero device, the underside of the car will be. Since there’s less to work with there, it will take way more R&D dollars to find that speed than it does right now. On the surface it’s great, but if you think the JGR, Penske, and JR cars are hard to beat now ????

  3. Interesting stuff. Hopefully it doesn’t lose some jobs for folks at the fab shops.

    Hey……that kinda looks like a Dodge Charger in the background of that Xfinity Tweet shot.

    1. Of course it’s going to cost jobs, and unfortunately for them, it needs to, budgets are unsustainable when fans, crowds and tv audiences decline, so does sponsorship.

  4. This is a great idea. 100% no qualms with the flange fit body’s. Only problem I have with it is it Is we will lose the Mustang and Camaro brand. NASCAR and five star need to work together to develop a body that looks very similar to the Trans Am cars. Google them they’re hot. They are doing it that series. I hate that we keep taking more more identity out of the series. As for the cup series people probably don’t realize the body panels are already coming from five star anyway.

    1. After doing research five star makes those tans am series bodies too. They appear to also be flange fit composite body’s

    2. How exactly are we losing the Mustang and Camaro brand? Unless I’ve missed something about Chevy and Ford changing models in Xfinity, they’re still gonna have those two…

  5. This is so overdue and should be adapted for Cup, too. The number of cars a team needs to have to be competitive is absurd. The employees needed to shape metal, hang bodies and do paint a body can largely be eliminated. The cost of NASCAR racing is unnecessarily high and they need to eliminate people, the size of facilities and specialties required. The next requirement should be motors, transmissions and rear-ends that last 4-5 weekends–easily doable, particularly when you compare to IMSA and F1

      1. Well, yes I do. I made my living in racing for over 30 years and was responsible for 100’s of millions in NASCAR sponsorship.

        How about you?

  6. I’ll be interested to see if this actually does save money. Most of the schemes so far have done anything but help teams economize.

  7. I would love to hear the conversation Jeff has when he’s on the road having dinner with himself.
    “What do you want to do after dinner?”

    “How about a movie.”

    “No, nothing good’s playing”

    “Want to hit the local hot spot?”

    “No….I’m tired….let’s head back to the hotel and hit the sack.”


    1. ???????????????? Scott I’m cracking up, you made me laugh as much as Jeff did.

  8. Jeff, I have nothing to say about flange – fit composite bodies but I sure did love the conversation. About had me rolling ???????????????? in the floor. And Scott’s response was about as hilarious. You are so much fun.

  9. This just seems to me like another attempt to create a new talking point and divert attention away from the bigger issue with these cars, which is aero push. Lets fix the aero issues first, and then worry about some new flange-whatever bodies. Can’t confirm, because I don’t usually watch ARCA races, but I have heard that they have been using these bodies for a while, but without, wait for it…the splitter. Imagine that, it can be done! Would be interesting to sit down and watch one if these races to see if the racing is any better or different. Personally, I’m way more interested in changing the actual car than I am with changing the material the car is made out of. For inspiration, NASCAR need not look any further than their own Pinty’s series. These cars are actually way different than the current cup/Xfinity cars, and appear to have the same aero characteristics of NASCAR’s most successful era of the 90’s/early 2000’s.

    1. Most of the races on on you tube… go check one… or part of one out.

      I have watched some and the races are fine… ARCA just has too much disparity to be a great judge. Only 8 good cars, another 7-9 ok cars and then field fillers.

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