Kyle Busch started the race from the front row but couldn’t get back there once he lost his track position.
Kyle Busch looked every bit a contender on Sunday in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway until minor fender damage relegated him to pit road and negated his track position.
Busch won the first stage and led a race-high 118 laps but saw his afternoon get derailed when he ran into the back of a slowing Austin Dillon, who had been involved in two accidents by that point and likely had a puncture.
The damage wasn’t severe but generated a tire rub on the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota, and Busch needed to give up his track position to fix it.
Despite having the car that dominated the first stage, Busch never got that track position back and he defaulted to one his favorite targets this season — the high downforce rules package.
“We got a little bit of damage and that put us behind the eight ball because otherwise we would have been right with (runner-up finisher Denny Hamlin) on strategy all day,” Hamlin said. “We had to fix the damage.
“Our car was fast and it was good we could maneuver a little bit. (Ryan Blaney) was really good, too, coming up through the field right there with us. But we got a little bit of damage and our track position is off and we could never get it back.
“So, this package is awesome.”
Busch’s main point of contention this season is that the new package generates so much drag off the 8-inch spoiler that drivers are bogged down in it, especially deeper in the field on shorter tracks like Martinsville, Richmond, Dover and New Hampshire.
Last year’s package generated roughly 1,500 pounds of downforce. The new package doubles that, punching a much larger hole in the air as a result. If last year’s car lost 25 percent of its downforce behind another car, that’s 375 pounds. This season, with a much larger wake, a trailing car is losing what teams estimate as 30 percent of its overall downforce and 900 pounds.
That has made clean air more important than ever before.
The cars are so stable and planted that Busch needed to overdrive corner entry just to make time up, but eventually it bit him, sending him into the wall for the final caution.
In previous seasons with a lower downforce formula, Busch contends, he would have had an easier time driving back through the field with a faster car.
“What am I supposed to do? You have a little bit of damage — a tire rub — so you have to come down to fix it, and then we suddenly can’t drive back through the field? It’s stupid.
“You used to be able to make your way through the field. I’ve done it at Richmond. I’ve done it here. I’ve done it at a ton of places. Now you can’t do it anywhere.”
Busch was asked if the package was intended to make it harder for drivers.
He didn’t particularly take the question in stride.
“No, it makes it easier,” Busch said with emphasis. “It makes it easier for everyone with so much more downforce, because everyone can stay on the throttle longer and the tires don’t fall off.”
Was this simply a byproduct of cars that are too fragile, as another reporter suggested?
“Too. Much. Downforce,” Busch said slowly.
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