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NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR Young Guns Keeping Tabs on Kentucky Package

JOLIET, Ill. — Even though the much-hyped “Kentucky Package” will only apply to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the results and implications of the experiment are certainly being monitored by the young guns and top prospects currently enrolled in the XFINITY and Truck Series.

After all, if everything goes according to plan, this is the package that Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher and Erik Jones could all conceivably drive when they graduate to the highest levels of the sport.

Buescher has made only five Sprint Cup starts this year so he preceded his opinion with the disclaimer that he isn’t entirely qualified to offer opinions and analysis on that side of the garage. With that being said, he does believe the low downforce setting could be a good thing for fans and participants.

“It could be considered a victory for the sport,” Buescher told Popular Speed on Saturday. “I think it’s going to depend on if it truly does what NASCAR is hoping it will. If it goes out there and makes it more difficult, (some drivers) are going to wish they had kept their mouths shut.

“If it’s better, then they are going to love it. I’m not qualified to say exactly what’s going to fix it and if this is the answer, but this is really neat to see. If this makes the racing better now then it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

The changes, intended to increase passing and track action, include cutting the spoiler to 3.5 inches (from 6), reduces the splitter extension to 25 inches (from 38) and reduces the overhang by 1.75 inches. In short, the package will make the cars looser in the corners — forcing these drivers to have to lift off the throttle more than ever before.

Like Buescher, Elliott has only competed in a handful of Sprint Cup races this season but has been around the garage long enough to have opinions on the “Kentucky Package.”

The second-generation star praised NASCAR officials for their willingness to aggressively work towards improving the racing product and is looking forward to seeing how the process plays out when the sport arrives at Kentucky Speedway on July 8.

READ MORE: Sprint Cup Drivers Debate Kentucky Package

“If anyone had the right answer, they would fix it immediately,” Elliott said. “Regardless of if this is a good change for the sport, we won’t know until we go try it so I think it’s a good thing that we’re going to try it.”

Elliott warned fans not to expect a quick fix and that the “Kentucky Package” likely represents the first step towards slowly improving the product over the next several years.

“I don’t know if it will completely fix it, but I hope it gives NASCAR a better idea of what direction we need to go,” Elliott added. “Like I said, I think the cars will be much different … If it’s a good direction, we’ll continue down that path and if it’s not, we’ll try something different and get ready for next season.”

Erik Jones has only been in NASCAR for three years but has personally witnessed a gradual decrease in passing opportunities across the three national tours during that span. He says the sport has become even more aero dependent during his brief time in the sport.

“When I first got to the Truck Series in 2013, it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “At least in the trucks, passing was okay. You could make passes last year too but then we went to a different panning in the front and that’s made it harder.”

He said the conditions in the Truck Series currently mirror those in the Cup Series based on his lone start in the No. 18 at Kansas.

“In the Cup Series when I ran that race, when I got to five car lengths behind someone, you couldn’t even run the same line. That’s tough on a driver obviously, if we’re both trying to run the preferred line. So I think these changes are a step in the right direction. There are things that needed to be done and changed.

“It’s good to see them being so proactive and even be willing to do something in the middle of the season because it’s not easy to do this. I’m sure the drivers will embrace it and hopefully it works.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

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By Matt Weaver

Matt Weaver is the Executive Editor of POPULAR SPEED. He has covered NASCAR since 2011 and full-time since 2013. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He has been published all across the country and routinely makes radio appearances on Sirius XM Satellite radio and NBC Sports Radio Network.

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