What’s Happening?

On Wednesday, NASCAR announced the 2024 rules package for short tracks and road courses, which was highlighted by a more simplified diffuser and no horsepower increase. Fans were not thrilled with the swing NASCAR took, but, will it work?

  • The short-track rules package took some elements from the most recent Phoenix test in December of 2023. The result is a rear diffuser with fewer vertical strakes and a 3-inch rear spoiler, up from 2 inches. According to NASCAR, the increased spoiler height was meant to “Compensate for reduced downforce”.
  • The short track and road course rules package has been a source of scrutiny since the Next-Gen car was introduced. Fans have not been happy with the short-track package, and this is the second year in a row NASCAR has changed the rules package.
  • Fans are still begging for more horsepower. Many are not convinced these aero changes will work.

Will It Work?: What the Drivers Had to Say

During the short track package test at Phoenix, two drivers commented either directly on the diffuser or on the test in general. Erik Jones had this to say to Cole Cusumano on Twitter after day one, where they tested the simplified diffuser the first time.

There was nothing I was overly excited about with any of [the aero testing]. Some of the diffuser stuff I liked for sure.

Erik Jones via Cole Cusumano

Jones saw things he liked with the diffuser, but, overall, he was not thrilled with how the testing went. He was not the only one to echo that sentiment of the aero testing not being enough, as Kyle Larson said something similar to Cusumano at Phoenix.

Because I wasn’t a part of the Richmond test last year, I was hoping that there would be a noticable difference in traffic, but, it doesn’t seem to be way different.

Kyle Larson via Cole Cusumano

Frankly, the drivers are not giving fans much reason for optimism here. Jones gives a small ray of hope, but, it’s within the context of nothing with the aero package being a difference maker.

Jones did have some optimistic things to say about tire. A better tire did help the racing product at Martinsville, particularly in the fall race. However, tire wear has many outside factors that could change it from week to week.

Why Not Just Add Horsepower?

Denny Hamlin recently went on the Dale Jr. Download to talk about the short-track package. He talked about multiple ways that increasing horsepower would help the short track package.

Read the article above for a full breakdown of comments, but, Hamlin mentions two areas where increasing horsepower will help. First, he mentions how more horsepower will make it easier to eliminate shifting at road courses. He also mentions that increasing horsepower will help increase tire wear without making major changes to the tires, but, he does believe that using extremely soft tires can help at least in the interim.

Hamlin and many in the industry have commented that a small bump in horsepower would not make a major difference to engine bills. Virtually every driver to comment on the short track package says that more horsepower will help. However, will a small bump be enough? Tyler Reddick had this to say on “Door, Bumper, Clear” about playing with horsepower on iRacing.

Again, this is all in sim…There was a weird knob we can work on to just basically increase the power of the car by, I don’t know, 150 horsepower? Didn’t really change much. I mean we’re talking the amount of off throttle time was decreased very little…I think you need to be above 1000 horsepower to move that needle.

Tyler Reddick

Increasing to 1000 horsepower may make a dent in the engine bills. Maybe NASCAR has tested similar data, but, they have not commented on that publicly.

However, even if a “Small bump” does not make a difference, why not try it? It doesn’t hurt to at least try it, especially if it makes the racing product even better.

Will the new short-track package work in 2024? Ultimately, we do not know, but, there is a lot of pessimism surrounding it.