The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season will be the final with the sixth-generation car, and its swan song will place more emphasis on high horsepower. On Thursday, the sanctioning body revealed the rules package for the thirty-six races, with twenty-three utilising a 750-horsepower and low downforce setup.
“We constantly review the race packages to try to put on the best possible racing for our fans,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development John Probst said. “When we brought in the short track/road course package this season, Darlington was not part of it due to its unique size. We’ve been evaluating data from both race packages, as well as feedback from drivers, teams and OEMs and feel that the 750 hp/low downforce package best fits the track.”
During the 2021 schedule reveal on Wednesday, NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell proclaimed both races at Darlington Raceway would use the 750-hp package rather than the 550-hp one that was featured at the three Darlington events in 2020. The 750-hp package will also be introduced for the new race at Nashville Superspeedway in July.
The 550-hp, high-downforce setup was predominantly used at tracks longer than a mile, though it has been criticised by fans for providing an unimpressive racing product. Atlanta Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway will all use the low-horsepower setup. Atlanta, Kansas, Las Vegas, and Pocono all have two points races, while Texas is also hosting the All-Star Race though the exhibition event has commonly been used by NASCAR to experiment with new ideas that may include a different rules package.
Tracks less than a mile in length and road courses used the high-horsepower package. The new road races for 2021—Circuit of the Americas, Road America, Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield, and Daytona International Speedway road course (Busch Clash)—will join the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, Sonoma Raceway, and Watkins Glen International in using the 750-hp package. Alongside its asphalt coutnerpart, the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race will also be run with this setup.
Other tracks using the 750-hp package are Dover International Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, and Richmond Raceway.
The high-horsepower setup will also feature a greatly reduced rear spoiler length from 8 inches to 2.75, while the front splitter’s overhang shrinks from 2 inches to .25 and its wings are down from 10.5 to 2 inches. The radiator pan also loses its vertical fencing to reduce downforce, though the pan itself stays the same.
As superspeedways, Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway have their own packages.
Sixteen of the races must also be run with a short block sealed engine, rather than thirteen as in 2020.