CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR revealed the 2019 rules package for Cup on Tuesday.
Here are key points to understand:
Q: What’s different with horsepower?
A: NASCAR will limit horsepower with a tapered spacer for every race but next year’s Daytona 500.
Cars will run 550 horsepower at all tracks 1.33 miles and larger. At tracks less than 1.33 miles, cars will have 750 horsepower.
For a comparison, teams had 400 horsepower in the All-Star Race in May when a similar package (that used a restrictor plate) was tried.
Q: What else is different?
At tracks 1.33 miles and larger, teams will have aero ducts that direct the air from the front of the car through the wheel well. That is done to create a wider wake so it is easier for the trailing car to close and not be impacted by the so-called “dirty air.”
There are some exceptions. Atlanta, Darlington, Pocono and Homestead will not have the aero ducts. They will have brake ducts to help cool the brakes at those tracks.
Q: Any other changes?
Yes. For all tracks, cars will have a larger spoiler. It will be 8 inches tall and 61 inches wide. The top of the spoiler will be clear to help drivers see through that and though the windshield of the car in front.
Also, the splitter will have a 2 inch overhang and 10.5 inch wings at ends (near the tires) underneath the car. That is for all tracks.
The radiator pan will be 37 inches in the front and taper to 31 inches with vertical fences. That also is for all tracks.
These aerodynamic changes are needed to balance the car with the rear.
Q: So what about restrictor plates?
A: Restrictor plates will be used for the 2019 Daytona 500 because work is already underway on those engines. When the checkered flag flies, it will end NASCAR’s restrictor-plate era, which began in 1988 in response to Bobby Allison’s car flying into the catch fence at Talladega in 1987.
Q: What happens to those restrictor plates?
A: NASCAR should make them available for the public to purchase and either display or destroy.
Q: Why is a tapered spacer being used instead of a restrictor plate?
A: Said John Probst, NASCAR Vice President, Innovation and Racing Development, said: “For us, the tapered spacer is a better solution than a plate for multiple reasons. The plate itself being 1/8 of an inch thick. Any little imperfection in the plate itself results in a pretty significant power gain. I remember we used to go speedway testing and test for two days and find two-tenths (of a second). If you get someone with sandpaper on their finger and (scratch the plate) they’d get half a second. Tapered spacers are way less sensitive. It’s more efficient from our side. More efficient from the air flow.”
Q: Why are all these changes being done?
A: Let Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, explain:
“If we said we wanted to develop a new car today based on what we’re running today, we fundamentally believe … what we have today is not the direction where we want to be long-term. … We’re actually going to be able to make some tweaks as we go and develop the next gen car.
“We knew from an engine standpoint that the horsepower we settled on was where we needed to be from a relevancy standpoint long-term to not only be able to talk to our current (manufacturers) about how can we introduce new technology” … but also have conversations with potential new manufacturers.
Q: What stood out when NASCAR addressed these rules?
A: O’Donnell talked repeatedly about how the engine package could help bring in new manufacturers to join Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.
“It’s not just the 2019 decision, this is what we feel is in the best interest of the sport long-time … to have a healthier team ownership, have a healthier relationship with our current (manufacturers) and attract new, potential (manufacturers) and attract new owners and this plays into that. We’ve talked to the engine builders, the reason we went to the horsepower level we’re at, it gives us that option to be more relevant. It gives us that option to look at new technology in the future and our current package doesn’t do that.”
Q: What are other benefits of this package, according to NASCAR?
A: O’Donnell said that with the current package, drivers keep saying they want tires to wear more and lap times to fall off. O’Donnell said that is not possible for Goodyear to do because of the speeds in the corner.
“By being able to back the speeds down, not drastically, but enough, it does give Goodyear the ability to start looking toward that more, which was a key component.”
Q: How long has NASCAR been working on this?
A: O’Donnell said it has been over a two-year process.
Q: So how will driver talent show up more in this package compared to what is being run this season?
A: O’Donnell said: “To this I think they’ll matter even more. You’ve got to really think about different moves and you will the ability to make those passes. Right now, unless I’m missing something in terms of what we’re watching … I don’t see the option as much going into the corner at the speed that we would have in our new package.”