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NASCAR announces return of lower downforce package at Michigan next month

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts

SPARTA, KY - JULY 09: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on July 9, 2016 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

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In a rules bulletin Thursday morning, NASCAR announced it will run the lower downforce rules package in the Aug. 28 race at Michigan International Speedway.

The changes, which include a shortened spoiler, a reduced splitter and the elimination of rear skew that generated sideforce, also were used in the June 12 race at Michigan, the July 9 race at Kentucky Speedway and at the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. The objective is enhancing the ability of drivers to pass.

NASCAR vice president of innovation Gene Stefanyshyn said the same rules likely would be used for the 2017 season. NASCAR still is considering a few tweaks that including shifting some downforce from front to rear, removing some rear downforce or adding some sideforce.

“These are all fine tuning in nature and not any big changes,” Stefanyshyn said during a conference call Thursday morning. “It will help the delicate balance of the car. This is a car relying more on mechanical than aero grip. Teams have a lot more tools with suspension and camber at their disposal.”

Any further tweaks will be made in collaboration with teams after the Aug. 28 race at the 2-mile oval. Stefanyshyn said there were more setup combinations to try after experimenting with the new rules at Michigan in June.

“A lot of teams think they have some fine tuning they can do,” he said.

Stefanyshyn said it’s unlikely the proposed 2017 rules will be tried again in a race this season as NASCAR wants to keep the rules consistent during its final 10 playoff races.

In another bulletin released Thursday, NASCAR announced new specifications for chassis construction for 2017 races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

The structural changes are designed to strengthen the cars’ interior in areas around the floorboard, anti-intrusion plating, firewall and footbox, helping protect a drivers’ feet and legs in a crash. The changes also include the rear roll cage behind driver and left-side door, helping lessen driver movement in an impact.

The updates are optional for 2016, mandatory at Daytona and Talladega next year and at all tracks in 2018.

The chassis improvements are an outgrowth of several safety projects launched by NASCAR after Austin Dillon’s airborne crash in the July 2015 race at Daytona International Speedway.