The White Zone: Charlotte highlights failings of high-downforce package

Charlotte, The Mid-Season Shakedown
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 26: William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty Patriotic Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola, driver of the #10 Smithfield Ford, lead the field to the green flag to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

The high-downforce package in the NASCAR Cup Series is very hit and miss. Thursday’s race in the Queen City at Charlotte Motor Speedway demonstrated how miss it can be.

Under the competition caution in the Alsco Uniforms 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Joey Logano and three others opted to stay out, while race leader Matt DiBenedetto and the rest of the field hit pit road.

Following the hour-long weather delay, Logano, on old tires, pulled away from the field, most of whom were on new tires, for over 30 laps to win the first stage.

The White Zone: Charlotte highlights failings of high-downforce package

Once again, the biggest problem of the high-downforce package was on display.

This package maximizes grip, which means Goodyear can’t bring softer tires. Less fall-off means cars don’t get as loose. Thus, while dirty air made it easier to pass cars in a pack, it makes passing the leader exponentially harder, because of the clean air advantage.

This effect is negated to an extent at tracks like Darlington Raceway, because of the old, worn out surface. Charlotte’s surface, despite being 15 years old, shows little sign of aging. Thus, tire wear is marginal.

It wasn’t just the end of the first stage. It happened again in the second.

Alex Bowman, Logano and Ryan Blaney stayed out, while race leader Kevin Harvick and others pitted under the fifth caution.

While Chase Elliott, on four new tires, climbed from 15th to fourth in the second stage, after the Lap 79 restart, he couldn’t run down teammate Bowman, on old tires.

It’s not just Thursday. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 had many of the same problems. Brad Keselowski won it relatively unchallenged, despite running on old tires.

At what point will NASCAR admit that this package, by in large, doesn’t work? When it misses, it misses the mark by a country mile.

We came to this realization with short tracks and road courses. It’s time NASCAR came to it with the bigger ones.

Just to hammer the point home, the final lead change, Thursday, was a result of Harvick going into fuel-saving mode, not tire management or the aero package. Even when Elliott got loose in the closing laps, Blaney couldn’t capitalize, because of Elliott’s clean air advantage.

Outside of Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, high-downforce isn’t conducive to good racing.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth.

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I've been a fan of NASCAR since I was five years old. My passion for it, and auto racing in general, inspired me to pursue a career in it. For four years, I covered NASCAR and IndyCar for SpeedwayMedia.com. I'm currently studying at the University of Tennessee to pursue a career in sports writing. As a student at the University of Tennessee, and a native of Knoxville, Tenn., I'm a diehard fan of Tennessee Volunteers football. If covering NASCAR doesn't kill me one day, watching Tennessee football will. I'm also a fan of the Atlanta Braves, the Nashville Predators and the NFL. Outside of sports, I watch anime, read manga and watch a lot of films.

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