Craig Murto: NASCAR plays with the rules


NASCAR is playing with the rules in its Sprint Cup division, hoping to put the best product on the racetrack.

At Kentucky they ran a low downforce package, which allowed cars to pull right up behind a competitor’s car with as little of the dreaded “aero push” as possible. The race was competitive, and there was plenty of passing.

At Indianapolis this week they’re going with a high downforce package, using a larger spoiler on the back and a wider oil pan underneath to punch a large hole in the air. The hope is that it will enable the cars to draft more easily and perhaps pull off “slingshot” passes.

The Kentucky package will be seen again at Darlington, and the Indianapolis package will be run at Michigan. Tire compounds may be tweaked for each race to help enable the desired effect of the packages.

Testing these possible packages for next year under race conditions is the right move. Teams never go all out when asked to test a new aero package for NASCAR. The only way to see how the racing will be affected is to actually run a race with the rules in place.

It could be that next year’s rules are a hodgepodge of various rules for different types of tracks. But it won’t be too costly for the smaller teams, as the changes consist mainly of the pan underneath the car, the mounting of the nose and the size of the spoiler on the rear. With minimal costs involved, nobody loses and everybody wins, especially the fans. Let’s hope this week’s Brickyard 400 is exciting.

The first Brickyard 400 was run in 1994. That was also the year we lost F1 racer Ayrton Senna. Until the past weekend, Senna was the last fatality in F1.

Jules Bianchi died Friday night of the head injuries he sustained nine months ago in the Japanese Grand Prix, when his Marusia went off course in a yellow flag zone and struck a recovery vehicle. He never regained consciousness.

Safety is always a moving target. It may be that a safety car should be deployed any time a recovery vehicle is trackside.

You should make an effort to be trackside this weekend. There are plenty of local and regional racing options.

The World of Outlaw Sprint Cars will be at Williams Grove on Friday and Saturday nights. Just up the road in Mechanicsburg, Pa., this is the biggest regional show this weekend.

The Hampton Heat 200 will be run at Langley Speedway in Hampton on Saturday night. Last year the only regional Late Model race to attract more cars was at Martinsville.

If you want to stick closer to home, Shenandoah Speedway hosts Late Models on Saturday. If you’d rather visit a local dirt track, Winchester Speedway will hold a 35-lap Super Late Model feature and Hagerstown will have their Late Models go 44 laps.

In the spirit of websites such as, every now and then I will feature local food. After all, you have to eat, and sometimes track food just doesn’t do the job.

If you like sushi, YamaFuji Japanese Restaurant in Front Royal has the best. It is so good and fresh that it even attracts customers from Northern Virginia. And you can get it to go, which means you can put it on ice in a cooler and take it to the races. And if you don’t like sushi, they have cooked food as well. Try the Scallop Katsu.

You could bring some sushi with you to Summer Thunder, which will return this Saturday to Franklin Park in Purcellville. The car show is a celebration of motoring in general, as it is open to all motorized vehicles. You are invited to bring your hot rod, classic car, super car, muscle car, motorcycle or your favorite custom.

And if you don’t bring your sushi, there will be food and music, as well as prizes for the registered vehicles. Spectators are welcome, admission is free, but donations are encouraged. Proceeds will benefit Operation VetsHaven, a local charity striving to assist Metro-area veterans and their families who suffer from post-traumatic stress as well as traumatic brain injuries. More than 95 percent of all the revenue raised directly benefits the afflicted. Visit for more details.

Franklin Park’s doors open for Summer Thunder from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information visit

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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