Questions and answers about NASCAR’s 2019 rules package

4 Comments

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.”

Texas Xfinity results: Noah Gragson wins playoff opener

0 Comments

Noah Gragson is rolling through the NASCAR Xfinity Series like a bowling ball headed toward a strike.

Gragson won for the fourth consecutive race Saturday, taking the lead with 11 laps left and winning the 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory put Gragson in the second round of the playoffs.

Finishing behind him in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

Texas Xfinity results

The race was pockmarked by wrecks, scrambling the 12-driver playoff field.

POINTS REPORT

Noah Gragson remains the points leader after his win. He has 2,107 points. AJ Allmendinger is next, 26 points behind.

Sam Mayer and Ryan Sieg hold the final two transfer spots. They are one point ahead of Riley Herbst, eight points ahead of Daniel Hemric, 13 points ahead of Brandon Jones and 29 points ahead of Jeremy Clements.

Texas Xfinity driver points

The Xfinity playoffs will continue Oct. 1 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, USA Network).

Noah Gragson wins Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway

0 Comments

Noah Gragson opened the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs the same way he has run much of the season.

Gragson sidestepped a web of issues plaguing playoff drivers and won Saturday’s 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway, tying a decades-old Xfinity record by winning for the fourth consecutive race. Sam Ard, formerly a series mainstay, won four in a row in 1983.

Gragson, continuing to establish himself as the championship favorite, took the lead with 11 laps to go from Jeb Burton as most of the day’s leaders were running different tire and fuel strategies over the closing laps.

Gragson, 24 and set to jump to the Cup Series next season, led 85 laps. He won by 1.23 seconds.

“This number 9 team, man, they’re on fire,” Gragson told NBC Sports. “Luke Lambert (crew chief) and the boys executed a great race.”

MORE: Texas Xfinity results

The win was Gragson’s seventh of the year. Following in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

The victory pushed Gragson into the second round of the playoffs.

A big crash at the front of the field on lap 117 changed the face of the race. John Hunter Nemechek lost control of his car on the outside and was clipped by Justin Allgaier, starting a wreck that scrambled most of the field. Damages forced playoff drivers Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones and Allgaier from the race.

“The 7 (Allgaier) chose the top behind me, and I haven’t seen the replay of it, but the 7 chose the top behind me and started pushing,” Nemechek said. “The 21 (Hill) made it three-wide on the 9 (Gragson), and I was three-wide at the top, and I think we ended up four-wide at one point, which doesn’t really work aero-wide in the pack.”

Pole winner Jones, a playoff driver taken out in the crash, said Nemechek “was pushing a little too hard. Nothing to fault him there for, but probably a little early to be going that far. It is what it is.”

Six laps earlier, another multi-car crash scattered the field and damaged the car of playoff contender and regular season champion Allmendinger.

The wreck started when Brandon Brown slipped in front of Allmendinger and went into a slide, forcing Allmendinger to the inside apron. Several cars scattered behind them trying to avoid the accident.

Allmendinger’s crew repaired his car and he later had the race lead.

Playoff driver Jeremy Clements had a tough day. He parked with what he called mysterious mechanical issues about halfway through the race.

Below the cutline after the first race are Herbst, Hemric, Jones and Clements.

Stage 1 winner: Daniel Hemric

Stage 2 winner: AJ Allmendinger

Who had a good race: Noah Gragson is threatening to turn the final weeks of the Xfinity season into a cakewalk. He clearly had the day’s dominant car Saturday in winning for the fourth race in a row. … AJ Allmendinger’s car was damaged in a wreck in heavy traffic, but his crew taped parts of the car and gave him an opening to finish fourth.

Who had a bad race: Jeremy Clements, in the playoff field, finished 36th after parking with mechanical trouble near the race’s halfway point. … Jeffrey Earnhardt crashed only 17 laps into the race and finished last.

Next: The second race in the first round of the Xfinity playoffs is scheduled Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. ET (USA Network) at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Cup drivers are for changing Texas but leery about making it another Atlanta

1 Comment

FORT WORTH, Texas — Some Cup drivers are concerned that a reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway could create racing similar to Atlanta, adding another type of superspeedway race to the NASCAR calendar.

While Texas officials have not stated publicly any plans to make changes, some competitors feel Sunday’s playoff race (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network) could be the final event on this track’s current layout. 

With the All-Star Race moving from Texas to North Wilkesboro next year, Texas Motor Speedway’s lone Cup race will take place Sept. 24, 2023. That could provide time for any alterations. Work on changing Atlanta began in July 2021 and was completed by December 2021. 

Reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson said work needs to be done to Texas Motor Speedway.

“I would like them to demolish this place first and then start over from scratch,” Larson said Saturday. “For one, they did a very poor job with the reconfiguration, initial reconfiguration. 

“I would like to see them change it from a mile-and-a-half to something shorter. I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever. 

“If I could build a track, it’d be probably a three-quarter mile Bristol basically, pavement and progressive banking. But I don’t know if that’s even possible here. I’m not sure what they have in mind, but anything would be better than what they did.”

Former Cup champion Joey Logano worries about another superspeedway race with such events at Daytona, Talladega and now Atlanta. 

“Do we need more superspeedways?” Logano asked Saturday. “Is that the type of racing fans want to see? Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano said he wants to have more control in how he finishes, particularly in a playoff race. 

“I want to be at tracks where I can make a difference, where my team can make a difference, and we’re not at the mercy of a wreck that happened in front of us that we couldn’t do anything about,” he said.

Discussions of changing the track follow complaints about how tough it is to pass at this 1.5-mile speedway.

“Once you get to the top, it’s almost like the bottom (lane) is very, very weak,” Daniel Suarez said.

Suarez has mixed feelings about the idea of turning Texas into another Atlanta-style race.

“Atlanta was a very good racetrack, and then they turned it into a superspeedway and it’s a lot of fun,” Suarez said. “I see it as a hybrid. I don’t think we need another racetrack like that, but it’s not my decision to make. Whatever they throw out at us, I’m going to try to be the best I can be.”

Suarez hopes that Texas can be like what it once was.

“Maybe with some work, we can get this race track to what it used to be, a very wide race track, running the bottom, running the middle, running the top,” he said.  

“As a race car driver, that’s what you want. You want that ability to run around and to show your skills. In superspeedways … everyone is bumping, everyone is pushing, and you can not show your skills as much.”

Chase Briscoe would be OK with a change to Texas, but he wants it to be more like a track other than Atlanta.

“If we’re really going to change and completely start from scratch, I would love another Homestead-type racetrack,” Briscoe said. “The problem is any time you build a new race track, it’s not going to be slick and worn out for a while. It’s trying to figure out what’s best to maximize those first couple of years to get it good by the end. 

“I think Homestead is a great model, if we’re going to build another mile and a half. I think we’re going to have to look at what they have, the progressive banking, the shape of the race track is different. I just think it’s a really good race track, and I think it always puts on really good racing. Anything we could do to try to match that, that would be my vote.”

Denny Hamlin just hopes some sort of change is made to Texas.

“I’d rather have another Atlanta than this, honestly,” Hamlin said. “Anything will be better than kind of what we have here.”

NASCAR shares prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer

0 Comments

FORT WORTH, Texas — The NASCAR garage is sharing its prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer DJ VanderLey, who was injured Thursday night in a crash during a micro sprint Outlaw race at the Texas Motor Speedway dirt track.

He suffered several fractured vertebrae and has a spinal cord injury, according to a post from his wife Jordan on her Facebook page. 

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up to help the family with medical costs. 

VanderLey was Chase Briscoe’s engineer for four years, and they are good friends.

“I hate that it happened to anybody,” Briscoe said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, “but for it to hit close to home has definitely been tough for me.”

Briscoe said he planned to visit VanderLey in the hospital on Saturday and that “I just hope that everybody continues to pray. That’s really all we can do at this point, trying to hope he gets better.”

Christopher Bell calls VanderLey among his best friends. VanderLey was Bell’s engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016. 

Bell spent the night at the hospital and also picked up Jordan VanderLey at the airport when she arrived. 

Stewart-Haas Racing had a decal for VanderLey on Riley Herbst‘s No. 98 Xfinity car for Saturday’s race.