Mike Hembree, Special for USA TODAY Sports
BROOKLYN, Mich. — NASCAR’s high-drag aerodynamic package got its second race test Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400, and post-race reactions from drivers ranged from outright disapproval to muffled disappointment.
Matt Kenseth won the race in dominant fashion, leading 146 of 200 laps. He rarely was challenged at the front at Michigan International Speedway’s high-speed, 2-mile layout. Most significant passing in the top 10 was done on the first few laps after a restart, when drivers spanned three or four-wide in an attempt to make up ground before the lead car got away in clean air.
Martin Truex Jr. finished third but said he would have had a shot at winning under different circumstances.
“We could run anybody down and get to them,” Truex Jr. told USA TODAY Sports. “But it took a long time to pass cars. It was just so damn hard to pass. I could run a guy down from way back and get to him and about spin out. It’s no fun to race like that. We had a car that could have contended with the 20 (Kenseth) today and just couldn’t ever get there.”
Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski avoided criticizing the package but said a lot in not saying very much.
“It’s not my deal, man,” Keselowski said. “It’s not my right to say. It’s not my sport, so whatever they want to do, we’ll race it. That’s my job. I think we saw almost exactly what everybody thought we’d see. I’ll let you guys (media) judge whether that was good or bad.”
Asked what he thought of the package results, Logano said, “What did you think?” Told there wasn’t much passing, he said, “That’s what I thought, too.”
Asked if he wanted to see the package tried again, Logano simply said, “No.”
WATCH: Final laps of Pure Michigan 400
The high-drag package was used for the first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month and had little impact on improving passing opportunities. The package was created in an attempt to dramatically increase passing and provide more exciting racing, especially at NASCAR’s intermediate tracks, per chairman Brian France’s request.
NASCAR communications official David Higdon said NASCAR will look at data from Sunday’s race, along with other aero package tests, and take input from drivers. The sanctioning body is trying to determine which package will work best for 2016. Executive vice president Steve O’Donnell announced Friday that despite the experimentation there will be no changes in aero rules for the 10 Chase races this season.
Kevin Harvick finished second but passed up the opportunity to comment directly when asked about the package. “I’m really proud of my team and the things that they did to prepare for the race, and we had a good, strong day,” he said instead.
Denny Hamlin, who finished fifth and failed to lead a lap, told USA TODAY Sports: “It’s not what I would prefer, obviously. Passing is very, very difficult; there’s no doubt about it. I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I think we’ve seen what’s best. Hopefully, these NASCAR fans get what they want in the future.”
Hamlin could have been alluding to the low-downforce package NASCAR used at 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in July, which was a hit, providing the most exciting racing of the season so far in 23 events and what most Cup drivers in the garage have said they would prefer NASCAR go with in 2016. That package returns once more this season, at Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend.
Hamlin said he expected more accidents.
“You’ve got to be very edgy in the corners,” he said. “I’m really surprised we didn’t see more wrecks. But the lead car has a huge advantage. It’s going to be hard for the second-place car to pass the leader when the leader can run wide open.”
And Kenseth’s view? “I didn’t see much of the race, which was totally fine with me,” he said, smiling. “We were up front, and that’s what you want.”
Follow Hembree on Twitter @mikehembree
PHOTOS: 2015 Sprint Cup race winners