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Watch: Denny Hamlin Rips Into Short Track Package

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

Few drivers are as vocal in modern NASCAR as Denny Hamlin, and one of the biggest topics he discusses is the short-track package. Hamlin joined Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a special edition of the Dale Jr. Download. and the two discussed the short track package. In it, Hamlin also offered his own solution to fix the racing product on short tracks.

  • Hamlin believes the solution is more horsepower. While he also mentioned how changes to tires and shifting will help, he feels that more horsepower will help those issues too.
  • Adding horsepower is the popular solution amongst NASCAR fans and drivers. Hamlin is far from the only one to suggest it, and recent comments from an engine builder show that it may not cost much money.
  • Fans are constantly asking for NASCAR to increase the horsepower at short tracks. They feel this is the solution to making the short-track racing product better.

Why No Increase in Horsepower?

I can tell you as a team owner, our engine bills when it was 700 or 800 horsepower versus right now is no different, so I don’t understand why going back and taking a $0.50 piece of aluminum that is a tapered spacer, and opening that thing up to 750 [horsepower], I cannot make sense of why we’re not doing it.

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin is not the only one who believes this. Bob Fisher, Sr. Vice President of ECR Engines, also talked about increasing horsepower from the perspective of an engine builder. He said that increasing horsepower to 750, “Wouldn’t be a huge tear up for the engine companies.”

So, what’s the hold-up? Why is NASCAR not even trying to give a small bump to horsepower? Well, NASCAR is looking to attract a new manufacturer.

The problem is that no new manufacturer is on the immediate horizon for NASCAR. The closest a manufacturer has come to joining NASCAR is Honda.  American Honda Motorsports Manager Chuck Schifsky spoke to RACER‘s Marshall Pruett, and Schifsky said that Honda may consider a move to NASCAR if they potentially leave IndyCar in 2026.

Well, at least there is interest, but, it’s not immediate. Hamlin argues in the above clip that until a new manufacturer comes and specifically demands a decrease in horsepower, NASCAR should improve the product they currently have. He also argues that an increase in horsepower helps other aspects of the short-track package.

How More Horsepower Helps Shifting

NASCAR was supposed to test a transaxle at Phoenix to eliminate shifting on short tracks. Hamlin agrees that eliminating shifting will help, but, increasing horsepower will help take care of that.

When I looked at what NASCAR was proposing, for getting rid of shifting at Martinsville, we were like, ‘That isn’t going to work, our minimum RPM is going to be 5000. We are going to mat it.’ Again, another thing that horsepower would help is that now we could run 5000 RPM because we have more horsepower, now we will start to buzz the tires…If we go to no shifting, we’re going to run so low of an RPM through the center, that it’s going to be slot cars.

Denny Hamlin

There’s a lot to unpack there. Essentially, Hamlin is saying that eliminating shifting with low horsepower means less RPM and less torque, which, in turn, means more grip with less tire wear. He argues that eliminating shifting means nothing if horsepower is not increased.

Then, why did NASCAR bring this transaxle to Phoenix to begin with? According to Hamlin, the drivers knew it would not work, and everyone finally seemed to agree at the Phoenix test because no one tried it. Again, an increase in horsepower, according to Hamlin, is necessary if NASCAR were to eliminate shifting, which he agrees is a bad thing.

How More Horsepower Helps Tires

Another thing Hamlin argues an increase in horsepower helps is tire wear. The current lack of horsepower does not help tire wear.

It’s a grip to horsepower ratio that we have tightened up over the last 10 years really…Now, the tires don’t fall off and we have less horsepower so they don’t wear out. We have less downforce than we ever have had, and less downforce equals less tire wear. As they continue to keep taking downforce off, you have to move the tire with it to amke it beyond soft, I’m talking gumball soft.

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin seems more optimistic that tires can be fixed even without an increase in horsepower. Still, an increase in horsepower will certainly help tire wear.

Hamlin argues that the biggest problems facing NASCAR’s short-track package can be fixed by increasing horsepower. At some point, will NASCAR bite the bullet and increase horsepower?

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