Craig Murto: NASCAR aero rules work

Craig Murto

The new aerodynamic rules for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series appear to be working, just as predicted.

The combination of less down force and a tire that falls off with wear provided two entertaining races in Atlanta and Las Vegas. Restrictor plate tracks (Daytona, Talladega) use a different package.

Both races saw drivers have to get up on the wheel, particularly late in a run when the car got tail-happy. This is what the drivers wanted, the race to be put back into the drivers’ hands. In fact, after the Atlanta race, Carl Edwards stated that the rules could go even farther.

Both races saw cars fan out in two- and three-wide formations as they sought grip entering the corners. And both races saw drivers incorporate tire strategy, which actually made a difference due to tire wear.

But the true test of the new aero rules came at the end of the Las Vegas race.

Kyle Busch had the lead. On his final pit stop he changed left side tires, so he was racing on worn rights. But normally when Busch has a lead of a second or more at the end of a race, the race is over.

Joey Logano made a charge on Busch, but could not catch him. At this point it looked like any number of races in years past. That was until eventual winner Brad Keselowski arrived on the scene.

Keselowski caught Logano. But instead of hitting an aerodynamic wall of air as we’ve seen in years past, he was able to make the pass for second. And he wasn’t finished there; with a handful of laps remaining, Keselowski passed Busch for the lead and eventual win of the race.

Track position will always mean a lot, but it seems with the new aero package that a faster car can actually battle and make a pass for the win.

The Cup races at Atlanta and Las Vegas were good races. They weren’t necessarily barn burners, but they demonstrated that the current aero package could very well provide a barn burner or two as the season progresses. NASCAR is headed in the right direction as far as the rules package in the Cup Series.

Saturday night you’ll be headed in the right direction if you head to South Boston Speedway. The season-opening card includes two 100-lap Late Model Stock Car features. Native son Peyton Sellers will return to South Boston on a regular basis in 2016.

Nothing is anticipated as much as the grand opening of Dominion Raceway in Thornsburg next month. The brand-new state-of-the-art facility promises to generate a lot of excitement in the commonwealth. And news this past week has generated excitement nationwide.

The tires used on Dominion Raceway’s Late Models will be branded McCreary. Old-time fans of short track racing recall when Goodyear, Firestone and McCreary battled each other on the short tracks. The McCreary name hasn’t been used in decades, and it really is exciting to see the tire make itself known on our newest racing facility. Be sure to visit www.dominionraceway.com for the track’s full schedule of events, including the must-see K&N Pro Series race in May.

A look at the live events broadcast on fanschoice.tv shows that the flat track motorcycle races from Daytona are scheduled Thursday and Friday nights. Be sure to tune in if you can.

It’s bike week in Daytona, and most people go for the partying. Personally, I’d go for the racing, which started Saturday night with the annual Daytona Supercross. Eli Tomac dominated the race on his Kawasaki, and hopes to continue the momentum through the rest of the season.

Bike week wraps up over the weekend with the 75th running of the Daytona 200 on Saturday, the most prestigious motorcycle race in the United States. For the second straight year the race is not associated with the premier racing sanction, the AMA, but will be sanctioned again by the American SportBike Racing Association. The race again will be competed with 600cc sportbikes.

Last year Danny Eslick made a last-lap pass of Josh Herrin to become a two-time winner of the race.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.