Those who followed NASCAR last season likely enjoyed the close competition throughout the year, along with the thrilling finale that saw Tony Stewart win his third championship in the very last race of the season. While some would argue that the competitiveness of the racing series is better than ever, organizers still plan to make some minor tweaks for the new season.
Rule changes last year led to a rise in two-car drafting on many tracks. Rather than the cars bunching up together in packs or side-by-side, many races saw drivers partnering up and drafting behind single cars. This upset some traditionalists, who preferred the racing in larger packs.
While the competition isn't making dramatic changes to the current rules, the goal is to get more pack racing on the track, especially at tracks like Talladega and Daytona. NASCAR CEO Bob France admitted to the Washington Post that the two-car racing got a bit out of hand last year, and that it "evolved into something that no one saw coming, and now we're going to deal with that."
"We know that the fans want to see more of the traditional style pack drafting, and so do we," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton told the news source. "We won't be able to totally eliminate the two car push. It will be a valuable tool that the teams will be able to use from time to time. However, we do believe that we’ve come up with a rules package that will help it be the exception rather than the norm."
According to Pemberton, the new rules include a larger restrictor plate, smaller spoilers and softer springs. The changes made to the cooling systems toward the end of last year will be kept as well. This change specifically encourages drivers to allow more air into their grille, which they can't do if they're tailgating another car.
Pemberton says that manufacturers tested the new changes in Daytona and the feedback was positive. Further adjustments may be made ahead of the Daytona 500.
Overall, however, NASCAR views 2012 as more of a bridge year rather than a time to reinvent the wheel. The big change to the sport will come in 2013, when the four major manufacturers - Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet and Toyota - will debut their new prototypes. The cars are scheduled to be tested for the first time next month.