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Defending Sprint All-Star Race winner encouraged by changes to car for race

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 - Practice

TALLADEGA, AL - APRIL 29: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 29, 2016 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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The changes NASCAR announced for Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race won’t change how the cars look to the fans. The changes won’t significantly alter how fast the cars go, but defending race champ Denny Hamlin said the changes could enhance the racing.

NASCAR announced Monday teams are required to weld truck trailing arm mounting brackets (the rule debuted at the May 7 Kansas race) and are limited on cooling fans and the toe alignment of the rear wheels.

The changes are intended to reduce downforce and side force and expected to reduce corner speeds by 3 mph at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I think from the fan standpoint, they won’t see physically anything different with the cars,’’ Hamlin said on a conference call with reporters Monday. “I think it’s just kind of an effort to keep going down the path that we started this year of taking downforce away. Most of these changes are going to take side force away, which to a fan may not mean much, but it’s all really an effort to take the center of the corner speed down. Ultimately we can take more chances when the speeds are down.’’

Reducing corner speed is a priority in the sport, said Hamlin, who is a member of the Sprint Cup Drivers Council.

“Right now between NASCAR, the (Race Team Alliance) and the drivers council, we’re all trying to reduce corner speeds,’’ Hamlin said. “Obviously with the downforce that was taken away in the offseason, what you don’t see is what’s happening behind the scenes, and that is that teams are getting smarter.

“If we had qualifying this weekend at Dover, there’s a chance we would set another track record. While track records are fun and cool for the stat sheet, they’re terrible for racing. We’ve got to slow these cars down.’’

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