By David Morgan, Associate Editor
The West Coast Swing reaches its final leg this weekend in the Arizona desert as the NASCAR Cup Series rolls into Phoenix for Sunday’s running of the United Rentals Work United 500.
Though the drivers and teams have two races with the Next Gen car under their belt at the one-mile oval, a new aerodynamic package that debuts this weekend will make Sunday a key race to help formulate a game plan for when the series returns in November with a title on the line.
The new package will reduce downforce by approximately 30 percent by swapping out the normal four inch spoiler for one that measures just two inches. In addition, three diffuser strakes and engine panel strakes have been removed, along with trimming the diffuser’s outer fencing.
In January, several different aerodynamic packages were tested to try and beef up the car’s performance on short tracks and road courses before this package was eventually settled on.
“I think any time you can have less downforce, it’s going to bring the cars closer together and create a better race,” defending race winner Chase Briscoe said. “The tires wear out and you start slipping and sliding around. It just makes it more competitive. There’s good and bad to that.
“It means as a team we have to be on it if we want to have a chance at a win but, if you can hit your setup right and keep track position, then it just adds that much more excitement. I don’t know that we can take much from last year because of the changes that have been made, so we’ll have to see what happens when we get on track for practice.”
By the Numbers
What: United Rentals Work United 500, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 4 of 36
Where: Phoenix Raceway – Avondale, Arizona (Opened: 1964, first NASCAR Cup event was 1988)
When: Sunday, March 12
TV/Radio: FOX, 3:30 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: 1.0-mile oval
Banking: Eight to nine degrees in Turns 1-2, 10 to 11 degrees in Turns 3-4 and frontstretch dogleg
Race Length: 312 laps, 312 miles (500 km)
Stage Lengths: First stage – 60 laps/Second stage – 125 laps/Final stage – 127 laps
March 2022 Race Winner: Chase Briscoe – No. 14 Ford (Started sixth, 101 laps led)
November 2022 Race Winner: Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford (Started on pole, 187 laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Jimmie Johnson (25.147 seconds, 143.158 mph – November 13, 2015)
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