NASCAR to transition from rear wing

Updated: January 16, 2010, 7:34 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and others welcomed a seemingly minor tweak that could cause significant changes to NASCAR's top series.

The drivers, speaking at the sport's preseason fan fest Friday at Daytona International Speedway, applauded NASCAR's move from a wing to a rear spoiler.

"I think it'll be cool," Kenseth said. "I'm all for mixing things up and trying something, especially the way we're running at the end of the year. Whenever they change something and you're not running great, it's kind of a good thing because you hope to get back on top of it. ... I'm kind of looking forward to it."

NASCAR informed teams Friday that it has scheduled an open test at Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of the transition. The change had been discussed individually with teams, but nothing had been announced until Sprint Cup Series director John Darby sent a memo to crew chiefs.

"To help put some of the rumor mills to rest, I am sending you the following facts as they relate to changes for 2010," Darby wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com. "We will be transitioning from the usage of the current wing to an aluminum spoiler."

A version of the spoiler already has been tested in wind tunnels with favorable results. Specifics, including the dimensions, have not been finalized. NASCAR plans to notify teams of proposed sizes in the next few days.

NASCAR will hold an informational meeting for teams in mid-March, and the spoiler will be tested March 23-24 at Charlotte. No race has been selected for the spoiler debut, but the March 28 event at Martinsville is the earliest the change could be implemented based on the timeline outlined by Darby.

"When you're running a business, you make decisions, and you're hoping you're making the right decisions," Earnhardt said. "Not all decisions are the right ones, but you hope that you're making them with the best intentions. ... They're trying to make all these decisions with the best intentions to try to improve the racing for the fans.

"They don't make these changes for the drivers. But I like all the changes. ... The only way to do anything better is to keep modifying and tweaking it, so I think it's great."

The season opens Feb. 14 with the Daytona 500, and Martinsville is the sixth race on the schedule.

Darby said in the memo that the rear spoiler will replicate the downforce and balance that is being produced on the current car.

NASCAR in 2007 phased in a new model of race car that replaced the spoiler with a wing. Many drivers were slow to adapt to the new car, which went to full-time use in 2008, and fans have claimed the car has made the racing boring.

NASCAR last May began a series of town hall and individual meetings with teams, and one of the constant cries from participants was a need to alter the car design.

The decision to actually do so came from offseason meetings with drivers, but the timing means teams will have to scramble to adjust inventory that's already been prepared.

Ryan Newman said a spoiler would give cars a more traditional look, but cautioned that there's still a lot of unknowns surrounding the move.

"Kind of numb right now in respect to it," Newman said. "I always said personally I like the looks of the spoiler over the wing. I think the wing has had some benefits and it's had some drawbacks."

He said the downforce created by the wing also caused lift when cars got turned around, possibly causing cars to leave the ground during accidents.

Kenseth also said he wasn't sure what a spoiler would change.

"I don't know if any of us do until we really run it," he said. "There's never really been a penalty for making a mistake, and there's never really been a reward for keeping it off the wall all day because you can slam them into the wall so hard and they still run the same speed.

"You can get them sideways 45 degrees and almost anybody can catch them. They're so forgiving with that wing and everything. I think this is going to get it back to being a little more like what we had before, maybe a little less forgiving and make qualifying a little bit more exciting, where some people might get over the edge and not be able to catch it."

Information from ESPN.com's David Newton and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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