Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Then And Now - 1995 Summer 500 Pocono

Twenty years ago Pocono Raceway witnessed one of its most competitive races in the Summer 500 - aka the Miller Draft 500 - and seeing it in the aftermath of the frustrating 2015 Brickyard 400 is illustrative of NASCAR's search for rules packages that will open up passing.   This Pocono race illustrates what NASCAR hoped to see at the Brickyard and beyond, and it's worth breaking down what went right for NASCAR in 1995 because they shouldn't give up on getting what we see in this Pocono race -

* As is obvious from the beginning, the draft is very effective here.   Historically Pocono produced drafting and it made for a lot of passing; the 1982 Summer 500, famous for Dale Earnhardt's Turn One tumble with Tim Richmond, remains the benchmark for excellent racing on 2.5-milers with low-banked corners.   This was in the period when NASCAR had begun windtunnel testing the cars - this after Billy France felt the manufacturers had lied to him about their racecars in lobbying for rule changes - and they were sporting large spoilers but no aeropush effect.

* Goodyear was a year removed from the 1994 tire war with Hoosier and was using leftover tire war tires to a considerable extent; at the time Chris Economaki and Dick Berggren noted in their written forums that some of these tires seemed to race more like bias ply tires.   It is clear in this 1995 race that the tires are being leaned on pretty hard and are allowing the drivers to race hard. 

* The draft is so effective and the tires so raceable that shifting is not hurting ability to pass, this after the beginning of shifting in 1991-2 indeed affected ability to pass, to where some drivers lobbied against it - "Shifting is a pain in the ass," Terry Labonte said in 1992. 

The discouraging result from the 2015 Brickyard 400 should not mean the end of a high-drag aero package, because we know it can work, and work spectacularly.

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