2019 Rules Package

Ryan: Dover criticism at interesting juncture for leadership, rules

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How much would Kyle Busch’s excoriation of the racing Monday at Dover International Speedway draw the ire of NASCAR?

Discussions took place Tuesday (as part of the sanctioning body’s weekly postrace analysis) on whether to punish the 2015 series champion. Late Tuesday afternoon, a NASCAR spokesman said Busch wouldn’t be fined.

It was an interesting window into the new dynamics of NASCAR leadership and the sanctity of a rules package that has been a central storyline of the 2019 season.

By previous standards, Busch’s harsh assessment of how higher speeds impacted the racing at Dover might have crossed NASCAR’s boundaries for language detrimental to stock-car racing.

Series officials previously have said drivers are welcome to criticize them for their calls but draw the line on assailing the entertainment value of the on-track product. In announcing the abolition of its “secret fine” policy, Brian France said sanctions publicly would be levied on those perceived as denigrating NASCAR, and it’s been applied (sometimes capriciously) to Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart for their views on restrictor plates, the Gen 6 car and loose wheels.

However, Busch’s comments weren’t completely out of line given NASCAR’s expectations for a radically different rules package in 2019.

During a critical preseason test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, vice president of development and innovation John Probst told JeffGluck.com and other reporters that NASCAR “wanted cars close together. We don’t want people falling off and going laps down. We don’t want people checking out.”

Martin Truex Jr. won Monday’s rain-delayed race at Dover by 9.5 seconds, a margin of victory greater than the previous 10 races combined this season, and even Truex said passing was difficult for his No. 19 Toyota.

It’s also worth noting that Probst said during the Las Vegas test that most drivers were opposed to the new rules – and many seem to have been biting their tongues when asked to evaluate the rules. The introduction of 550 horsepower at larger speedways was intended to keep cars closer together, but the reviews have been mixed.

Though Kevin Harvick offered a stronger opinion Monday after Dover, his restraint after a March 23 qualifying session at Martinsville Speedway reflected the reticence many drivers have had about the package this season.

“Look, I bailed on having an opinion on rules and downforce the middle of last year,” Harvick said, apparently referring to when NASCAR moved in the direction of the 2019 rules after a version was used in the All-Star Race.

Martinsville was among the 2019 races in which drivers were more vociferous about the impact of the rules on passing.

Those complaints have undoubtedly been heard by Jim France, who took over as NASCAR CEO for his nephew, Brian, nine months ago and has been a much more visible presence and sounding board at the racetrack.

Though his leadership style has been universally praised for its connectivity, Jim France also has an old-school approach that is in line with his late older brother who ran NASCAR for more than 40 years.

Traditional hard-line leadership at NASCAR has been less receptive to rebukes from drivers, and a punishment for speaking out against the 2019 rules – which likely will remain for the foreseeable future – might have sent the message that some sacred cows remain in Cup.


Perhaps more at risk for NASCAR sanction was Leavine Family Racing owner Bob Leavine, who began tweeting his support of Busch and his dissatisfaction with the rules since shortly after Monday’s race ended in a tweetstorm that lasted more than a day.

“It’s unfortunate, especially when a team owner does social media,” NASCAR senior vice president Steve O’Donnell told SiriusXM’s NASCAR channel Tuesday morning. “I don’t think that’s the right way to do it at all. It’s a choice that was made. We’re available every race and talk to every constituent we have. Jim France is at every race, which is phenomenal. The ability to say that you don’t have a chance to talk to us about your feedback is a bit questionable.”

NASCAR ultimately declined to punish Leavine, too.

The team owner has some leverage. As he noted, he is a Race Team Alliance board member. He also has a midpack team that joined the Toyota Racing Development fold this season.

With open speculation about Toyota’s desire and need to add another car to its lineup, an expansion of LFR would be the easiest option. If Leavine were to leave NASCAR (and this tweet didn’t exactly inspire confidence about his long-term belief in the product), it would leave a gaping hole that would take a lot of effort and money to fill.


Prior to Martin Truex Jr.’s wins at Dover (1-mile track) and Richmond Raceway (the 0.75-mile layout where he scored his first short-track win in Cup), his previous 12 wins had come at ovals either 1.5 miles and longer or road courses.

Because his 2017 championship was built on the 1.5-mile tracks (a record seven wins, including the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway), it’s easy to overlook Truex’s versatility. His 0-for-80 winless stretch on short tracks was an anomaly, and his team’s only weakness is on superspeedways, which are largely immaterial to winning a title once a driver has qualified for the playoffs.

With two wins in three races, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn seem fully assimilated into Joe Gibbs Racing and poised to continue a five-season run as a first-tier championship-caliber duo.


Truex’s win also helped make a strong case for cementing JGR as the reigning top team in NASCAR’s premier series. Between Busch, Truex and Denny Hamlin, Toyota is the only manufacturer with a trio of multiple winners, and Erik Jones has shown signs of righting the ship in the past two races.

Team Penske might remain a clear second in the pecking order, but there weren’t many highlights at Dover with Joey Logano (who fought for a sixth after getting mired deep in traffic from playing two-tire strategy to win a stage), Brad Keselowski (who faded greatly to 12th after leading 58 of the first 181 laps) and Ryan Blaney (15th).

Those struggles, coupled with Hendrick Motorsports’ four top 15s, underscored that the battle behind Gibbs has been tightening.


The tactics of Logano and William Byron revealed how strategy can be tricky with races that run largely incident-free. Both drivers sacrificed track position for Stage 1 points and then spent much of the remaining 280 miles trying to regain ground.

Dover marked the sixth of 11 races in 2019 that didn’t feature a multicar wreck, and the resultant lack of yellows can make it difficult to catch a tactical break. Logano and Byron both abandoned long-run strategies to short pit and get on sequence with the other lead-lap cars for their final stops with around 80 laps to go.

Gambles on being able to stay out longer under the final green-flag run (which lasted 131 laps) went unrewarded for Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola, who would have benefited if there’d been a late caution.


The return of single-car qualifying at Dover was kindest to the less experienced. Four of the top five qualifiers (Chase Elliott, Byron, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman) weren’t running Cup full time in 2013, the last season before the debut of group qualifying.

With only one driver starting in the top 10, qualifying at Dover was surprisingly unkind to JGR. During the 2013 season, JGR had three of the top four qualifiers (Matt Kenseth, Busch and Hamlin), and Truex also ranked in the top 10.


The demise of Furniture Row Racing sadly cut short one of NASCAR’s great underdog stories, but it’s good to see at least one thread remains to the Denver-based team.

Though only a handful of several dozen team members at Barney Visser’s defunct organization migrated with Truex to the No. 19 Toyota, Pearn keeping his postrace victory selfies tradition alive is a welcome reminder of the iconoclastic camaraderie that powered Furniture Row (even if the beards are gone).

NASCAR keeps group qualifying for 2019 Cup season despite new rules

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced Monday afternoon that group qualifying will remain in place at least to start the 2019 Cup season.

With a new rules package limiting horsepower, reducing speeds and increasing the importance of the draft, there was speculation that NASCAR might consider a single-car qualifying format like it does at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, two tracks where drafting is a major determinant.

Vice president of competition Scott Miller said NASCAR wants to keep qualifying entertaining and “we don’t believe single-car qualifying is going to get that done.”

Miller said NASCAR isn’t anticipating the draft to have a major impact on qualifying. “If you look at what’s happened on track with cars, I don’t think a 30-car draft will be quicker than two to three cars,” Miller said. “We don’t know yet, and competitors don’t know, if they trim the car out for lowest drag, is that faster than a three-car draft? There are lots of things to learn.”

Daytona and Talladega will remain a single-car qualifying format, but it’s possible other tracks could change. “We’ll adjust as necessary,” Miller said. “We won’t stick our heads in the sand.”

There will be some minor time modifications. The first session of group qualifying will be shortened by 5 minutes to 10 and there will be 5 minutes between sessions instead of 7 minutes. Miller said the windows were tightened to let broadcasters have a tighter program.

Other announcements Monday from NASCAR in a meeting with the news media at its R&D Center:

–The 2021 season is projected as the on-track rollout for the Gen 7 car. A new engine likely would follow after that, possibly in the ’22 season. John Probst, vice president for innovation and development, said the new car likely will have a composite body (which the Xfinity Series switched to over the past few seasons).

–After working as general manager of the truck series last season, Ben Kennedy will become the managing director of racing operations and international development and work on major projects across all three national series.

–The Daytona 500 will be the last race for longtime race director David Hoots, whose role in the NASCAR tower will be filled by Tim Berman and Jusan Hamilton.

–The Triple Truck Challenge, a three-race program at Texas Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Gateway Motorsports Park, will offer truck drivers an opportunity to win $500,000 in bonus money.

–NASCAR is adding series-specific officials to its national series next year. There will be 12 in Cup, 10 in Xfinity and eight in truck.

Dustin Long contributed to this story

NASCAR America: New rules level 2019 Cup playing field

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A significantly altered rules package for 2019 has the potential to create new opportunities for teams, according to NASCAR America analyst Parker Kligerman.

Last year, relatively minor changes in the body style caused Chevrolet to begin the season with little momentum and allowed Ford to get a head start. Teams now have several large changes that need to be factored into the handling of their cars.

“With a new package, it’s a bit of a reset,” Kligerman said on Wednesday’s show. “No one exactly knows what is going to be best. Everyone is going to show up at Daytona and then go on to Atlanta and say ‘all right, what’s best? I don’t know. We’re going to find out.’

“They’re going to do the best simulation, the best research they can, but when you have that unknown – that X-Factor – that just opens up that door for teams to catch up to other teams and for bigger teams to make a mistake and not really hit it right off the bat.”

According to Kligerman, this could result in an extremely tight race in the middle of the pack. Last year Richard Childress Racing placed one of its drivers in the playoffs on the strength of Austin Dillon‘s Daytona 500 win. Teammate Ryan Newman finished the season 17th in the standings.

Only 68 points behind, Roush Fenway Racing finished 18th with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The Wood Brothers and Paul Menard were nine points behind in 19th.

JTG Daugherty finished 22nd (AJ Allmendinger) and 24th (Chris Buescher).

“We’re talking about the rule change condensing the field and maybe giving midfield teams a chance to catch up. And when I look at teams that would be right there in the middle – your fringe playoff contenders – I look at (Richard Childress Racing). And now the other side of that is if some of those teams behind them are able to catch up more, it puts more competition. … It almost condenses the field and gives them some teams they weren’t fighting with before catching up.”

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR America: 2019 rules package is ‘huge for the sport’

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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.

For more, watch the videos above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Questions and answers about NASCAR’s 2019 rules package

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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.”