Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Downforce Has Been a Downer for Stock Car Racing, Petty Says; Legendary Driver: Big Emphasis on Aerodynamics Has Hurt Competition

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Downforce Has Been a Downer for Stock Car Racing, Petty Says; Legendary Driver: Big Emphasis on Aerodynamics Has Hurt Competition

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

Carl Edwards' fuel gamble provided an unexpected and exciting end to last Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It also steered the focus, if for only a moment, away from a lack of competition at the front of the pack.

But the problem certainly didn't go away.

There were 22 official lead changes among nine drivers in the 600-mile marathon at the 1.5-mile track. In reality, there were only nine in 400 laps under green-flag conditions, and none in the final 21 laps.

While everyone continues to complain about "aero-push," only a few seem to have a way to fix it.

With nearly 57 years in NASCAR, Richard Petty believes the problem could be erased by stepping back in time.

"Up until the last seven, eight years, they got into the downforce deal," Petty said. "I think they looked at IndyCars, sports cars, Formula cars. Everybody's going downforce, downforce. So NASCAR got caught in a trap. When they did that, they took a lot of the racing part away."

Aero-push is a condition created by turbulent air in traffic. Cars now have front valiances instead of bumpers to hug the car to the pavement. The lead car has the benefit of clean air to provide downforce, and everyone else is caught in the wake of dirty air that follows.

Petty's solution is simple: Take away the snowplow-like valiances and make the cars more reliant on old-fashioned shocks and springs.

"The deal is, what's taken part of the racing away, is the way NASCAR's got their rules," Petty said. "When we used to do our deal, the cars ran on suspension. They didn't run on downforce. In fact, the cars lifted off the racetrack. We had to do everything when you worked on the car."

Petty knows a little bit about racing. He won a NASCAR-record 200 races and seven championships. He's remained in the sport since his retirement after the 1992 season as a car owner. …

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