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Brickyard rules didn’t work out

Jenna Fryer
Associated Press

Indianapolis — Run, NASCAR, don’t walk, back to the drawing board to figure out how to liven up racing. The rules package used for last weekend’s Brickyard 400 was a failure no matter how the race is dissected.

The high-drag aerodynamic package was supposed to improve passing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was clear from the first practice session for one of the most important races this season that NASCAR officials did not meet their desired result.

Yet, nothing was changed before the race, which featured 16 lead changes. In fairness, that was one more lead change than last year’s race at the Brickyard, but it was still the second fewest since 2011.

NASCAR’s statistics also showed green-flag passes were down by 587 from last year.

When the race ended, the drivers were less than complimentary of the event.

Kevin Harvick called the rules package “a huge science project,” and Matt Kenseth called it “terrible.”

Even race winner Kyle Busch had issues in traffic.

“Whether you were behind a guy or behind a group of cars, you were horrible,” he said. “It was just absolutely so hard to handle in traffic.

“You don’t want to feel like you’re going off into the corner and you’re going to crash every time.”

Behind the scenes, teams fumed all weekend that Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR’s vice president of racing development and the architect for the Indianapolis aero package, was on a family vacation and not even at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The reality, though, is that his presence wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

NASCAR officials have struggled valiantly to create a rules package that produces dramatic racing. If there was a way to bottle what IndyCar does on ovals, NASCAR would buy it in truckloads.

But the route NASCAR officials followed has failed, and they stubbornly are staying the course despite the results.

Series officials listened to what the drivers wanted and used a low-downforce package at Kentucky.

Maybe it was a better race, maybe it wasn’t.

But most of the drivers raved about the final product, and almost every measurable statistic showed the competition was better overall.

Two days later, NASCAR chairman Brian France threw cold water all over Kentucky by downplaying any noted improvement.

Like his employees entrusted to fix the racing, he looked forward to Indianapolis and the package designed by NASCAR officials.

France made it clear: He wants pack racing, he wants cars making slingshot passes and he wants excitement.

He didn’t get it.

NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton on Monday said series officials will take some time to digest the race and the rules package, also scheduled to be used Aug. 16 at Michigan.

“We can absorb all the of the science and the data we collect, including talking to the industry, the drivers, the crew members and the competition departments of the teams and the car owners,” Helton said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“That’s part of the reason we created this specific package for the Indianapolis race — to see the characteristics of it, knowing that there are a lot of personalities in the garage area that have different opinions. but it’s on NASCAR to come up with the one that we put in front of the fans on each individual racetrack each weekend.

“So, we’ll take time.”