Drivers curious how 2019 rules package will race

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DOVER, Del. — Drivers are taking a wait-and-see approach about how the racing will be with the 2019 rules package.

NASCAR announced this week a high-downforce package for next year compared to what is run this year. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said the changes will put “racing less on the wind tunnel and more on the track.”

Teams will have a larger spoiler and front splitter. There also will be aero ducts for many races. Tapered spacers will restrict engines to 550 horsepower at tracks 1.33 miles and larger and 750 horsepower at tracks shorter than 1.33 miles.

“I don’t know what next year will look like, ultimately,” Jimmie Johnson said Friday at Dover International Speedway. “That’s something we’re all going to have to learn together as a group. I think there’s been a couple of great races that have shown that package puts on a great show. And I think we’d be naive to think that it’s just going to be awesome everywhere, but there’s a big attempt being made to improve the quality of racing and I support making our sport stronger.”

Kyle Larson ran with the 2019 rules package for part of Wednesday’s Goodyear tire test at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix.

The acceleration obviously wasn’t the same as the ’18 package just because you have the bigger blade and stuff on the back,” Larson said. “A lot more drag. So, acceleration wasn’t quite as much. It was pretty crazy how far you could run in the corner and then also how quick you could pick the gas up.

“I don’t know what it’s going to do for the racing at a track like that, but I feel like if we go there with a hard tire like kind of what we were testing on or what it seemed like Goodyear liked, I felt like that would be hard to race. But they still have time to tweak on it and hopefully bring a tire that will match that aero package and hopefully put on a decent race.”

Kyle Busch says it will be “interesting to see what happens.

“What R&D and development work goes into that. We saw a taste of it at the All-Star Race. We kind of saw everyone bunched together. There was a struggle at the end of the race where guys were able to pass the leader once the leader was out there. That was just one instance. I think there’s certain race tracks it will bode really well at and it will be a positive. There’s probably some others where it might not be that way. We’ll have to give it a wait and see mentality, and find out as we go.”

Busch has not been in favor of the package before. Asked if his mentality toward the package has changed, Busch said: “Sure. We don’t want to see the cars go slower as race car drivers. That is not what we all want to sign up for. But in the instance of going out there and wanting to put out a better show, we’re all for that. And trying to do what’s best for the industry, and collaborating together.”

Blaney is encouraged by the package with the extra horsepower. Teams had only 400 horsepower in the All-Star Race.

“I thought the All-Star package was too slow, so it’s nice they added some horsepower back to the mile-and-a-halves, and then staying the same at the short tracks and road courses, so that’s nice, but we’ll see,” Blaney said. “I thought the All-Star package had some bright spots in it, and I thought they could make some improvements to some things and I think they did that. 

“I feel like the racing will be better than we even saw it at the All-Star Race because the teams can have more time with the cars and understand them more and NASCAR can test them and all sorts of things, so we’ll just see how it goes. I think it’s going to be fine.”

Joey Logano says “there’s a lot of unknowns” about how the package will run next year.

The All-Star Race was a lot of fun, but obviously that’s an All-Star Race, so I think we need to have a little asterisk next to it and say it was the All-Star Race and everyone is racing for all-or-nothing and have that attitude,” he said. “But I think at the same time this package, at a lot of race tracks I think it will be better and at some race tracks it may be similar to where we’re at, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Asked if there’s a case where there can be too many changes, Logano said:

“You make change, and not every change is good, but you learn from every change. If you just sit still, you never make any progress forward. You don’t learn what’s wrong, you don’t learn what’s right, you’re just there. I give the industry credit. I think it’s more than just NASCAR, I give the industry credit for working together and willing to make some changes. Am I up here saying that this is going to work?  No, I’m not saying that. I don’t know if it will. It may not. It may be great, but we will learn from this decision one way or the other, and I think as a society we need to be open to do that, not just in our sport, but in life. It’s a good thing for us. It’s healthy.”

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