SPARTA, Ky. - Citing NASCAR's ability to be nimble, evolve in real time and its commitment to putting the best racing on the track, the organization's vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O'Donnell introduced new Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) car rules for Kentucky Speedway's July 11 Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts during a June 16 teleconference. 

The "Kentucky Package" will create racing machines with a rear spoiler height reduced from 6 inches to 3.5 inches along with a 25-inch wide front splitter extension panel reduced from 38 inches with an overhang reduced by 1.75 inches.

Teams will have their first opportunity to practice with the new package during two additional weekly sessions scheduled for Wednesday, July 8, from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. and 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Kentucky Speedway's Gate 15 is scheduled to open for guests at 3 p.m., and admission is free.

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.'s race tire compound was tested at the track April 13-14. The tire compound used for the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts will not be specific to the new rules package.

"I think it's (the Kentucky Package) going to make the drivers drive. The lack of downforce is going to be a big change," NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte said during the June 16 episode of NBC Sports Network's "NASCAR America." He is a former NSCS Hendrick Motorsports crew chief for racers Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Gordon. 

The series opened the 2015 campaign with a rules package made up of nearly 60 enhancements, such as the reduction of NSCS engine horsepower production from 850 to 725 through the use of a tapered spacer that governs the engine's air intake. Changes were introduced to help NASCAR's three national series reach one or more of the following goals: enriched competition, improved safety, reduced cost, enhanced product relevance and environmental (green) improvements.

"From 2014 to this year, they (NASCAR) reduced the (NSCS) downforce about 25 percent, a huge change in the rear spoiler," Letarte analyzed.

"At Homestead (Nov. 2014), cars had an 8-inch spoiler. In Texas (April 2015), it was a 6-inch spoiler. That's what they've raced at all of the downforce tracks so far. Talladega (May 2015), I know that's a speedway, that little 3.5-inch spoiler, that's what the teams are going to have when they go to Kentucky.

"It (the spoiler) will be a little wider, but that's going to be a drastic change. That's going to be over 50 percent less downforce than all these teams unloaded with in Homestead less than six months ago.

"With the reduced horsepower, it's going to make for interesting racing. I think the straightaway speeds are going to be up, causing the drivers to have to lift (the throttle) more. I think that's what the drivers have asked. They keep talking about, 'we're on the throttle wide open too long.'"

The Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts slot on the NSCS schedule plays an important role in unveiling the new rules. The race on the 1.5-mile track follows an open week in the schedule June 21, a Race Sonoma road-course event June 28 and a July 5 restrictor-plate, superspeedway affair at Daytona International Speedway.

"We're the last mile-and-a-half before the Chase, so we're a likely place for this to happen. Taking downforce off the car has been talked about as a way to promote green-flag racing and more passing," Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger said.

"What makes this a 'must-see' weekend is that you really don't know what to expect.

"There's so much at stake because you've got to be good at the mile-and-a-half ovals if you're going to win this championship. There's no getting around that - half the races are mile-and-a-halves.

"This is really the last chance to figure it all out before you go into the Chase with this whole new rules package. It's going to be something to watch. I think all eyes are going to be on this one."

Teams will have limited knowledge of the rules package from previous tests.

"We've had an extensive testing plan with the industry over the last 18 months. The teams have some data on this package and we wouldn't implement this if we didn't feel confident as an industry to implement it at Kentucky," O'Donnell said.

"This is not an abandonment of any rules package. There are many positives we've seen out of our current rules that shouldn't be dismissed, but we're constantly working on all areas of competition. We'll never consider the racing package final, because we've been vocal and will continue to be vocal about our commitment to continuing to improve the racing."

He further states the importance of examining ways the rules affect competition in race conditions opposed to testing and that fan reaction will be a factor in evaluating whether the changes are considered a success.

"This is a Kentucky package only, but any options are on the table coming out of Kentucky," he added. 

"Even in a test, there's only so much you can learn. Then, you validate it ultimately at a race.

"Ultimately, it's up to the fans, but certainly, we've been very, very vigilant in talking about tighter racing. I think we've achieved that in terms of first to 43rd. You see that those teams are closer than ever, but we certainly want to see more lead changes on the racetrack. 

"We'll evaluate not only that, but a number of different factors coming out of Kentucky, see what we can learn, and, potentially, what we can down the road."

Three-time series champion and NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip, who consulted on the original design of Kentucky Speedway, explains how he expects the changes to impact NSCS competition.

"The cars are losing total downforce -- a little off the front with the splitter and the pan, and a little off the back with the spoiler.  The rear spoiler represents a huge change from where we started last year," Waltrip commented via FoxSports.com. 

"We cut it down this year and now we're cutting it down again. Everyone says these changes effectively give the car more horsepower, and they do, but it's mostly in straight-line speed.

"The ride height rule gives them (teams) a lot of options, but cutting off a little bit of the splitter and spoiler, (those) are air management tools. They create downforce. Then, you have a body with downforce built into it with fender flares and quarter panels.

"Everything about this car was built to have downforce in it. So, now they're basically reverse-engineering it and removing some of the downforce."

He projects the car's performance with the new rules will better suit some drivers' style.

"If you like a loose racecar, you'll like this package. If you don't enjoy driving a loose racecar, you won't like this package. I expect the Busch boys (Kyle and Kurt), Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson, in particular, will benefit from these changes. But some drivers will absolutely hate it," he added.

The Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts will conclude a three-race NASCAR Kentucky Speedway weekend that opens July 9 with the Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 and continues July 10 with a 300-mile XFINITY Series event that will spotlight Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s first series start on one of the most challenging 1.5-mile tri-oval tracks on the circuit.

Race tickets, special ticket packages, weekend ticket packages and campsites can be purchased by visiting http//www.kentuckyspeedway.com/tickets, calling (859) 578-2300 or visiting the Kentucky Speedway ticket office at 1 Speedway Drive, Sparta, Ky., 41086.

- Kentucky Speedway -