Spoiler's 1.5-mile debut likely at Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Sprint Cup cars are expected to replace the rear wing with a spoiler at Martinsville in March, NASCAR president Mike Helton said Monday.
The spoiler then would be on the cars at Phoenix and then make their debut on a 1.5-mile oval at Texas Motor Speedway for the Samsung Mobile 500 on April 18.
"It makes the NASCAR car look more traditional and that spoiler produced the same advantages the wing had," Helton said during a news conference at Texas Motor Speedway. "We're hoping within the next two or three races we'll be at a point to say, 'It's time to take the wing off.' I think by the time we come here in April, we'll have two races under our belt."
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Helton said the idea behind putting a wing on the car was to help the overall performance on the track, especially when it came to the "aero push elements or the wake that the car would create as it went around the track with cars behind it."
Teams have been testing with the spoiler so that they can try to anticipate how it will affect the car during races.
Beyond the car, Helton talked about the impact of Danica Patrick on the sport.
"I would tell you that her impact has been huge already," Helton said. "It's been very well received in the garage area. The drivers and crew members have been impressed by her commitment and that's helped her credibility. Maybe a fan of hers now looks at NASCAR."
Helton also discussed the sport's sagging television ratings and attendance figures.
"I don't want to undervalue the live audience, whether it's at the racetrack or on television," Helton said. "Those are things we have to watch and do things to react to. A lot of the activity we've done over the last 18 months -- double-file restarts and the start time of the races -- are a reaction to those to try to grow the strength around those because they are critical, both the ticket buyers and TV audience."
Helton said the pothole issue at Daytona hurt ratings because fans could switch over to the Olympics while there was no race activity.
"It came at a bad time because things were going so well during Speedweeks," Helton said.
And despite the caution lights flashing when they shouldn't have twice during Sunday's race in Las Vegas, Helton has been pleased with the actual racing. A few other Helton thoughts:
• He said drivers are still learning exactly how far they can push things now that NASCAR has backed off on penalties for certain things. "We said, 'Boys, we're going to let you have at it,'" Helton said. "The admission, if you will, is of NASCAR backing off of the regulation part of the sport. The statement was more about, 'Oh, NASCAR is saying they don't need to be such a heavy hand, so regulatory.' That's the message more than what might happen following saying that. As each little occurrence happens, they gain understanding of what that means. We had dialogue with the teams in the offseason to explain more what that means."
• He would like to see more drivers try to race in both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, but said it would be tough to back up the time of the NASCAR race because it's so long. Right now, the timing of the two races means it isn't as conducive as it used to be to pull off the double. "They don't have to come ask us for permission to move their time around," Helton said about the Indy 500. "They can do what they want to with theirs. I think it's interesting when there's a Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon or Danica if they try it. It's a long day. When drivers want to do both, that's pretty spectacular."
• He said NASCAR continues to look at putting fuel injectors in the cars but that there's a lot of work to do to reach that point. "The end goal is to get there," Helton said. "But we have to figure it out correctly for our use. This is one of those things that the effort is going to require the Cup involvement to get to the answer. It's going to take a level of the Cup engine builders to get us to that point."