It was supposed to be a simple tire test and an opportunity to try out some new ideas. Instead, the No. 83 Red Bull Racing NASCAR team got a sneak preview of the new spoiler that will likely replace the rear wing on the Car of Tomorrow (CoT) this season.
A few days before Brian Vickers and his No. 83 crew headed to the Texas Motor Speedway for a scheduled tire test, NASCAR announced that they'd decided to scrap the rear wing on the cars (which most fans simply hated) and put a spoiler back on the trunk.
As luck would have it, the Red Bull driver was one of the first NASCAR regulars to test the new device.
“I thought it was good,” he said after trying it out. “I thought it added a little bit of front downforce, which is a good thing. I think it’s going to be more accepted by the fans. It looks cooler – a little more retro… back to the older car.
“The big question is how it’s going to handle in traffic. Theoretically, from what I’ve been told, the difference between the two is that the spoiler is better in traffic as it’s more efficient in dirty air, and a wing will be more efficient in clean air.”
The series has scheduled a full field test at Charlotte Motor Speedway on March 23–24, which will help the drivers determine how the device will react in traffic. NASCAR will make a decision about the timing of the spoiler’s reintroduction after hearing the teams’ input.
'I think the spoiler is going to be more accepted by the fans. It looks cooler.' –Brian Vickers
“We put the wing in for all of the right reasons,” says series president Mike Helton, “and over the course of the two seasons that this car has been on the racetrack, the general acceptance of the wing didn't grow past the point we thought it should have.”
NASCAR has been considering a return to the spoiler since last year. It has also tried some modified quarter panel extensions to help tune the side- and down-forces. The goal is to find a new configuration that will not force every team into running one particular aero package, which should help improve the racing.
NASCAR introduced the Car of Tomorrow in 2007 after a lengthy process to redesign the Cup car, partially in response to the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001. Designed to increase safety, it ran 16 races in the first year, and NASCAR intended to phase it in over two seasons. But after the teams pushed for its complete adoption, NASCAR moved up the date by a year and it ran the full 2008 season.
The CoT was bigger and squarer than the old Cup car and had several new safety elements, including an improved rollcage and larger crumple zones. It also looked different from the outside, with a rear wing and a front splitter making their appearance on the cars.
Vickers says he is proud to see NASCAR announce the spoiler’s return, because it shows that the series is working with the drivers and teams to make the sport better.
“Last year, [NASCAR] got everybody together and started saying, ‘We’ve got a job to do here to provide the best racing possible, and right now we feel like we can improve in some areas, so let’s all put our heads together instead of bickering over what we’re going to do in the media.’”
'The general acceptance of the wing didn't grow past the point we thought it should have.' –Mike Helton
The series made several changes to the rules during the 2009 season to help improve the spectacle. Some, like the double-file restarts introduced at the early-June race at Pocono Raceway, helped spice things up. Others, like the banning of bump drafting at the second race in Talladega, weren’t exactly welcomed.
But give the series credit for admitting its mistake and also announcing that it had overturned the bump drafting ban on the same day it revealed the new spoiler.
“They’re headed back more towards some traditional stuff and really giving the fans what they want,” says Vickers.
Although the fans will see a major change in the look of the Cup car, the difference on track between the old wing and the new spoiler may not be noticed from the stands.
“It’s a little looser in the front steering, a little more front down, but nothing major,” comments Vickers. “We can make a spring change and make a bigger difference than swapping the wing.
"Is it going to be a major difference for us on the track? Probably not – maybe a little better, but I think the most important part is what the fans want. That’s why they do it.”
For more on Vickers and the Red Bull Toyota team, head to RedBullRacingUSA.com