One of the big changes coming into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was the change in the rule covering the ride height of cars. The season opened up with several changes to the rule book but one that has stood out was the elimination of a minimum ride height for Sprint Cup Series race cars. The results have changed how teams prepare their cars for races in the highest level of stock car racing.
What the Change Did
The former minimum ride height rule did exactly what it states. The rule mandated a minimum height that a race car could be. Crew chiefs and engineers worked like mad to pull the cars down to the minimum height without breaking the rules. They used tight springs to hold the cars down while still trying to offer some handling options for drivers as they exited turns.
The problem was that the two sides of the spectrum did not always come together. With the elimination of the minimum ride height teams can now do more to adjust their cars and bring them as close to the race track surface as possible using creative combinations of springs and shocks without fear of being hit with a huge penalty.
The move could end up being the best rule change in the history of NASCAR. Suddenly the teams are building better and better race cars that drivers can actually drive, maneuver, pass, and hit the corners like never before. Completive racing is back on the track due to what amounts to a design change that actually didn’t include changing the design of the cars.
Did the Change Help or Hurt?
In an article reporting about what teams think about the elimination of the minimum ride height it’s pointed out that the rule change has not helped every team.
Some traditional powerhouses in the sport seem to have struggled with hitting the right combination of springs and shocks. Richard Childress suggests that one single rule change may not be the sole issue one why some teams are running better than others.
"When people start talking about it, and they're like, 'Oh, the 20 car (of Kenseth) hasn't won a race this year, they've gotten behind on this new deal' -- is it that they're really behind on this, or are they behind on aero or motor or chassis?" Childers wondered aloud.
"There are so many things you can be behind on.”
Childress nailed it with that statement. He later says that teams have plenty of smart people that know where they want their cars to be when it comes to ride height. You can’t make it to the level of the Sprint Cup Series without knowing something about setting up a race car for any given race. The key is making sure everything you do for one area of the car works well with everything you’re doing elsewhere on the car.
Childress states it best according to the article:
“I think there's a lot more to it than just the ride height thing."