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New NASCAR Cup Series Tech Package Accelerates Passing at 2019 Brickyard

The 2019 Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line was a thrilling race for the record books after NASCAR introduced a revamped aerodynamic package this season.

The new aero package applied more downforce to the stock cars and cut engine power, reducing it to 550 horsepower for most tracks longer than 1 mile. The goal was to create tighter racing and more passing.

At Indy, it worked.

The 2019 Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard – won by Kevin Harvick – produced the most green flag passes for the lead ever in a NASCAR Cup Series race at Indy, according to NASCAR statistics. This year’s 21 green flag passes for the lead were up 75 percent over the 2018 race, when there were 12.

The record-breaking number was also a 49 percent increase from the 10-year average of green flag passes for the lead at the Brickyard, which was an average of 14.1 green flag passes for the lead per race.

The 26th Running of the race was one of eight NASCAR races in 2019 that produced record-setting green flag passes for the lead. The others were Las Vegas 1, Bristol 1, Kansas 1, Chicago, Kentucky, the Charlotte Roval and Texas 2.

At his State of the Sport address Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR President Steve Phelps praised the quality of competition created by the new technical package.

“Our competition right now on the intermediate tracks and superspeedways, I believe, is the best racing we’ve ever seen,” he said. “I’ll start with myself as a fan. I love watching and am super-excited when we get to the intermediate tracks and superspeedways, the type of racing we are going to see.”

On the season, NASCAR has seen big increases in passing statistics year-over-year. According to NASCAR, the new aerodynamic package produced a 47.1 percent increase in green flag passes for the lead. Also, the average number of leaders per race (8.94) was the most since 2014 (9.75), and the average number of lead changes per race (17.42) was the most since 2015 (17.75).

NASCAR’s regular-season finale at the Brickyard was on par for the increased averages. The race featured 14 lead changes among eight drivers.

The statistics say the new aerodynamic package was a success at Indianapolis, and so did the eye test. The new package made the cars race in tighter packs, and the increased downforce allowed the drivers to race side-by-side through Indy’s low-banked corners. That was most evident on the many wild restarts.

On restarts, the drivers were racier and could put their cars into daring positions they couldn’t in the past. Sometimes the hectic restarts rewarded drivers, like race winner Harvick making wild moves for the lead on the outside lane many times during the race.

“The restarts are pretty hairy just being two-wide,” Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman said after the race in September. “It's pretty tight, but that's part of it. Everybody's playing games and side-drafting real hard and trying to build runs on those restarts.”

Increased drafting and side-drafting also were positive effects of the new aerodynamic package at Indianapolis. With the higher downforce and lower horsepower, it was harder for the leader to get away from the pack as those behind the leader could draft down Indy’s long, 5/8th-mile straightaways.

On the final restart with nine laps to go, second-place finisher Joey Logano used side-drafting to slow Harvick’s No. 4 car and briefly take the lead down the backstretch. As the two entered Turn 3 side-by-side for the lead, Logano was right alongside the backstretch grass. With that angle, Harvick had a better entrance into the corner and made the 21st and final green flag pass for the lead in the race.

Fans can expect to see more side-by-side racing and thrilling restarts in 2020 as NASCAR will bring the same aerodynamic package to the Brickyard next year as the race moves to Fourth of July weekend, July 3-5.

The Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line continues to add momentum in recent seasons, having produced three consecutive years of memorable and exciting NASCAR racing. The 2017 race saw Kasey Kahne outlast a chaotic second half of the race and a memorable three-wide pass-turned-wreck for the lead in Turn 3 to claim his final NASCAR Cup Series win.

In 2018, the 25th running of the race featured action near the front of the field all day long with 14 lead changes between nine different drivers. It all came down to a final between Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin, with Keselowski prevailing to deliver the first Brickyard victory for legendary team owner Roger Penske.

After 2019’s record number of green flag passes for the lead, it’s hard to tell what will happen next at the Brickyard. But one thing is certain: Race fans won’t want to miss this Fourth of July spectacular. Tickets are on sale now for the 2020 Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line July 3-5. Visit IMS.com now to buy tickets while at the lowest prices.
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