Many Sprint Cup series drivers have given the thumbs-up to the new rear spoiler, following the first speedway race with the device last Monday at Texas.
Since the Martinsville round, the cars from NASCAR's top series replaced the rear wing with a spoiler, but only this week at Texas the device was raced at one of NASCAR's fastest tracks, where aerodynamics come more into play. Denny Hamlin, who claimed his second victory of the season at the event, praised the spoiler for giving him a better feel with the car. He reckons the racing was improved in traffic, relative to when the wing was used.
"The car seemed to be planted to the racetrack quite a bit more," said Hamlin. "You could race around guys without the air being taken off of you as much as it did [with the wing]. So, I think it made for better racing. It was a step in the right direction for our sport. And, obviously, for the looks and for the competition side.
"I thought as far as the grip level, it just added some grip to the racetrack. When you do that, you add some "comfortability" to the racecar drivers, and that's what's going to make for a great finish at the end."
Kyle Busch, who finished third, echoed his teammate's view, saying the car felt more drivable than with the wing, helping create some of the chaos that unfolded in the closing stages of the race as drivers took more chances in traffic.
"I mean, it was a different race, for sure," said Busch. "The car seemed to be a lot more consistent and a lot more drivable. So you know on restarts it seems like there's a lot more chaos going on. A lot of guys are really comfortable and can run side by side and really, you know, push each other a little bit down the straightaways and what not."
Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, who finished second last Monday, had a different opinion than the Joe Gibbs Racing's duo, however. He believes the spoiler affected the cars' handling in traffic in a negative way, but expects to improve the balance when running behind other cars with some setup changes in coming races.
"I think in general we were trying to get accustomed to the spoiler," Johnson said. "It seemed to be tougher to pass in some situations. I think the wake of air was larger and more turbulent. You really had to take a lot of risks to get close to someone. But I think another couple races on these big tracks, we'll work on the setups some more and improve the balance of the car in traffic."
Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes the spoiler to be a step in the right direction, but he hopes there's a way to get more front downforce on the cars soon.
"The spoiler is better," Earnhardt said. "We just need to get a little more downforce on these cars. It would be pretty awesome if we could get a little more nose downforce and stuff like that. It'll happen. It will just take a while."
Penske's Kurt Busch reckons his team still has to get the most out of the new device in terms of setup, but he liked the feel of the car, which he compared to how Nationwide machines handle.
"I felt like it was stable and it seemed to provide a better comfort zone versus the rear wing," said the older of the Busch brothers. "Where it seems to have a slight difference that I can't figure out yet is the drag. I feel like I'm going so slow down the straightaways, but then the speeds seemed to be up in the center of the corners. I don't run many Nationwide races, but I think that our car drove like a Nationwide car."
Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle also liked the handling of the car and pointed out that when running in traffic his Ford lost grip on the rear end, which made him drive the car harder than before while battling for position.
"I like the spoiler better because it drives a lot better," said Biffle. "I like the feel of the car. The car turns a little bit better on corner exit and gets a little looser racing around guys, so you've got to drive her a little harder and pay attention."
Next weekend at Talladega, teams will race with a modified version of the spoiler, which will be narrower than the one used at Texas last weekend. Cars will also be fitted with the mandated restrictor plate with 30/32-inch holes.