As NASCAR seeks to make races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway more exciting -- and not in a wreckfest sort of way that occurred Sunday -- its experiment Saturday with the Xfinity Series could provide some answers.
The idea was to make the cars work like trucks -- punch a big hole in the air and allow them to draft and possibly slingshot past each other. To do that, NASCAR put a restrictor plate on the Xfinity cars to reduce them by about 225 horsepower. It went to the bigger 2016 rear spoiler that is taller on the left and right sides instead of the middle. Then, NASCAR put air ducts behind the front bumpers to push air to the side, much like a truck would with the shape of its nose.
NASCAR will continue to look at whether to try this for the Cup series after an Xfinity race-record 16 lead changes took place Saturday.
"Not the restrictor plate, but the air ducts are the way to go for sure," said Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski. "That was a huge gain and something I've been pushing on NASCAR for a while, so it's good to see them do it and give them a shot over there.
"It's a big gain at almost every track, so I'm glad it finally got a shot and it proved some merit."
Whoa, Brad, don't get ahead of everything talking about this package being used at more tracks than just Indianapolis.
"It's tough to say without a lot more kind of CFD [computational fluid dynamics] work and a lot more research and R&D," NASCAR executive vice president Steve O'Donnell said about translating the Xfinity package to a Cup race at Indy. "But it's not a huge difference that we made in terms of the current package with Xfinity to this package.
"So it's safe to say that it's not a drastic change, but it's still something that will require a lot of work and a lot of efforts through all of the industry to make sure we are able to pull that off."
O'Donnell said NASCAR will talk to drivers about how they felt about the package. It appeared that drivers could suck up to the car behind them much easier than in the past, but actual passing for the lead proved difficult.
"Certainly I think it passed the eye test. ... What at the end of the day matters is how many lead changes did we have and was it competitive throughout," O'Donnell said. "And we thought it was."
That would not be the same thought from Kyle Busch.
"I'm not a fan of it, but I'm not a fan of many things these days," said Busch, who pitted during the final segment for tires and couldn't rally to beat those who didn't. "All you did was take the fastest guy and bring him back into everybody else's clutches."
O'Donnell disputed that theory.
"I would disagree with Kyle, and would say William Byron won this race and competed at the highest level," O'Donnell said. "Kyle, I don't think [he] liked the package before we got here. ... We saw a lot of different drivers from the Xfinity Series up there competing and leading laps, which is great for the sport."
The biggest question, as Keselowski indicated, is whether the restrictor plates are the answer.
"You've got a restrictor plate on them," said teammate Joey Logano, who competed in the race. "You've got a lot of drag. You're kind of going down the straightaway like, 'Where is the end of it?' But the cars get such a big run down the straightaway. It's pretty amazing, but there's still that bubble kind of in between cars that the cars kind of stop and they stall out for the most part.
"Sometimes you can get a good enough run to make the move, but it's tough."