On Monday night, NASCAR announced the rules package for 2019: A combination of aerodynamic changes and engine configurations designed to put the racing back into the drivers’ hands.
Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and Dale Jarrett weighed in on the effect of those changes in Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America.
“This is huge for the sport,” Burton said. “This is a major change from where we are today. After trying something from the All-Star package, trying something at the Xfinity level and using all of the technology that’s available to NASCAR today that never has been before because of the OEMs (manufacturers) making available the simulators – all of the data they use to help develop a package … that NASCAR believes is going to put on a better race on a racetrack.”
The goal of the rules package is to reduce the aerodynamic sensitivity of the cars.
The rules package is designed in a way to “not take (the race) out of the drivers’ hands,” Burton continued. “That is a major key. To do it this way … throughout the whole industry and the end result being closer racing, by reducing some power in places, by adding some drag – doing all those things together. This is a big change for the sport.”
For 2019, there will be a limited number of options with the rules package. Aerodynamic changes that include a taller spoiler, larger splitter and wider radiator pan to increase downforce, but there will be different engine rules for short tracks and road courses compared to ovals 1.3 miles or longer.
“One size rarely fits all,” Letarte said. “There was a conversation that we were going to have multiple different rules for multiple venues to try to provide the best racing. … When you really get down to the nuts and bolts of that, while it seems great, it’s not really reality.”
The cost of adhering to a different rules package every week is prohibitive and would keep teams from fielding the most competitive cars.
One of the biggest changes is a 200 horsepower reduction on tracks 1.3 miles or larger.
What does it mean for the drivers?
“Speed doesn’t always equate to better racing,” Jarrett said. “Sometimes you’re just so much on the edge that it can’t create the side-by-side racing, which is what this sport was built on. … We hear these drivers talking about so many times as they get closer to another car they can’t get any closer than that even though they may be faster, they can’t get to that rear bumper.”
The combination of reduced horsepower and bigger holes in the air is intended to create the type of racing that fans enjoyed in this year’s All-Star Race.
“(The drivers) want to be relevant, they want to be important,” Jarrett said.
NASCAR America analysts agreed that the difference in a few miles per hour will be imperceptible to the fans and whatever small discrepancy they see will be far outweighed by the closer, side-by-side action on the track.
“As long as the racing is more entertaining for me to watch and the best drivers still have the best advantage because they are the most talented, then I’m a fan of whatever the rules may be,” Letarte said.
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