The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rules package discussion has gone on since the sanctioning body first announced its intention last summer. There have been equal parts consternation and jubilation as the sport heads down a significantly different path of lower horsepower, speed reduction and dramatic aerodynamic body modifications.
The goal for the change is two fold; create a better on track product and begin a path toward the Gen-7 Cup car more than likely set to debut in the 2021 season. Industry experts believe cranking down horsepower and speed now will be better served in the development of a new power plant to be used in the Gen-7 car, which would be a lightning rod for new manufacturers to join the sport.
But first things first.
Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway features the first real competition for the package or at least one of its variations. All tracks will feature a taller 8-inch by 61-inch rear spoiler, a larger front splitter with a 2-inch overhang, and a wider radiator pan that measures 37 inches wide in the front tapering to 31 inches at the rear. A reduction via a tapered spacer (0.922”) to a target of 550 horsepower will be used at ovals larger than 1.2 miles.
However, Atlanta is one of a handful of tracks (including Pocono, Darlington and Homestead) that will not use the aero ducts – that will be used at ovals larger than 1.2 miles.
So here’s the bottom line. I’m not at all as interested in the process as the end result. Less horsepower, “slower” speeds and aerodynamic modifications don’t mean a hill of beans to me if the on track product and competition is good. It’s as simple as that. Don’t tell me what goes in the recipe, just serve up a delicious meal and I believe most fans will be satisfied. It’s all about the eyeball test and nothing else.
But here’s the thing. Atlanta is the first step in a journey that will take at least five, six or even seven races to have a true takeaway on the impact of the rules. The variety of tracks in the first stage of the season, which includes the diverse layouts of Atlanta, Las Vegas, ISM Raceway, Auto Club Speedway and Texas – each with its own nuances and characteristics – will provide a good overall litmus test.
One race at Atlanta will not.
If the Las Vegas test earlier this month is any indication, the knee jerk reactions will be flying fast and furious this weekend. It’s foolish to overreact one way or another on either side of the spectrum, whether it be fans, officials, commentators as well as media center or press box regulars, where there are equal numbers of both Eeyores and cheerleaders.
Pump the brakes.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.