As NASCAR prepares for its 17 May return, the cars will feature some safety modifications stemming from Ryan Newman‘s frightening Daytona 500 crash to kick off the season. On Friday, NASCAR officials sent out a technical bulletin to all teams discussing new testing rules and changes to the Cup Series cars.
Newman suffered head injuries in his Daytona wreck, forcing him out of the car for the next three races until the season was halted due to COVID-19. He has since been cleared by NASCAR to return to racing with the season restart in May. His destroyed #6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang was later taken to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina for investigation.
One of the safety tweaks is the introduction of a second roll bar to further protect the driver’s head. It will be required for all cars starting June.
Incidentally, Newman was also responsible for another bar at the front of the roll cage; nicknamed the Newman Bar, it was added shortly after Newman was collected in the Big One at Talladega Superspeedway in 2013, a wreck that saw Kurt Busch land on Newman’s roof. The eighteen-time race winner, an engineering graduate of Purdue University, has regularly championed safety improvements in response to major wrecks he was involved in superspeedways.
The wicker bill on the rear spoiler is retained, though the aero ducts are removed. Aerodynamically, the rear spoiler, which was reduced in size for non-superspeedways starting 2020, punch a large hole in the air for drafting, while the aero ducts generally lead to dirty air and unstable cars on such tracks. The throttle body has also been shrunk for the circuits.
Other changes include mandating a check valve on the oil reservoir tank beginning at Talladega. Slip tape must also be applied on the lower rear-facing surfaces of the rear bumper cover for superspeedway races.
“As teams prepare for the return to racing, we want to provide as much advance notice as possible for upcoming technical changes,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Development John Probst stated. “Some of these updates stem from the investigation into the six-car incident at Daytona, and all are intended to produce a safe and competitive race at all venues. We look forward to providing more details in the near future.”
Testing-wise, NASCAR will lift most testing restrictions on 4 May, though teams will not be permitted to test on track for the rest of the season. They are also limited to 150 hours of wind-tunnel testing until the end of 2021, with 70 hours allowed at most in 2020. The Next Gen car, originally slated for a 2021 début until the pandemic pushed it to 2022, may not be tested alone.