’19 package comes with familiar refrain

They took away downforce and said the racing should be better.

In 2015. And ‘16. And ’17. And ’18.

The push toward less downforce and cars that were more difficult to drive was supposed to result in better racing and more passing opportunities and more lead changes for teams competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Then why after all that time and effort, not to mention money, is NASCAR going to a rules package next year that is on the opposite end of the spectrum?

The 2019 package, announced earlier this week, will increase downforce on the cars at all venues through the use of a taller spoiler and changes to the radiator pan and splitter on the front of the cars.

Aerodynamic ducts located in the front facia area will be required at 16 tracks and will have an impact as well.

Additionally, NASCAR will do away with restrictor plates following next year’s Daytona 500 and rely on the use of tapered spacers, which likewise reduce airflow, to help control speeds. Spacers will restrict horsepower to 550 at tracks greater than one mile while a larger version will allow for up to 750 hp at tracks one mile or less and road courses.

More downforce and slower speeds at 21 of 36 stops next season.

It’s not the first time NASCAR officials have traveled down this path. In 2015, a higher downforce package was used at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway.

The results were disappointing. Enlightening perhaps but ridiculed by fans and dismissed by drivers.

Meanwhile, a low downforce package was used at Kentucky and Darlington that year and showed promise. Thus, the march toward less downforce began in earnest.

Three years later, determining if the racing has improved depends on what one is using as factors. Lead changes? Those numbers have fallen almost every year since NASCAR rolled out the Generation 6 car in 2013. The number of race winners? There have been nine since 2014, including two more this season.

Recent races have been both competitive and memorable. Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval got high marks last weekend for both the use of the infield road course and what transpired on the race track. The Night Race at Bristol, the race at Watkins Glen, even Chicago, a 1.5-mile track, were praised for their on-track action.

Then why move away from a package that has gone through so much development and appears to be providing a better product? Because TV ratings and attendance numbers aren’t what they were a decade or more ago?

The ’19 rules package will be similar to what was used in this year’s All-Star Race and Open qualifying race at CMS.

Here are a few things that stood out from those events:

• There were six cars battling for the top spot on the final lap of the Open.

• There was plenty of two- and three-wide racing early in the All-Star Race and racing for positions throughout the event; drivers were getting big runs off the turns to catch those in front of them and attempt/make passes.

• Tire wear was big.

• While Kevin Harvick dominated the final stage, there was a lot of side-by-side racing immediately behind him.

On the other hand, the All-Star Race was only 80 laps – there are longer stages in some Cup races.

Also, it was the first opportunity for teams to race with that package. Give them months to work with it and find the edges and the haves will once again separate themselves from the have-nots. That will happen no matter what rules package is rolled out.

The All-Star Race was a snapshot when what NASCAR needs is an entire photo album.

Next year they’ll get it.

Will the racing be better? We’re told it should be.

Sound familiar?

8 Replies to “’19 package comes with familiar refrain”

  1. It reminds me of all those great ‘amenities’ that tracks add to ‘enhance’ the fan ‘experience’. For a race fan, the experience is about the race, not the infield. And I notice they seldom mention what extra cost might be incurred to access those ‘amenities’.,. Or saying tapered spacers produce a result any different than a restrictor plate?

    1. I won’t fault tracks for trying to give fans more things to do when at an event than sit on cold (or hot) hard seats and wait for the race to start. Are those costs passed along to fans who aren’t interested in non-racing additions to the program? I can’t say but such “enhancements” have to be paid for somehow.

  2. A real simple answer. Because Seven Time can’t drive a loose racecar, among others. Nascar desperately wants JJ to win number 8.
    Harvick, Kyle Busch, Truex and Larson have shown they can adapt to any sort of car. So, they’ll go back to a high downforce car, the same batch of drivers who can adapt will win and it will all stay the same.

    1. I tend to think NASCAR is willing to let it play out however it plays out. But that’s my opinion. If I were to lean one way or the other, I’d say officials would rather no one win more titles than Petty or Earnhardt. I do think those who succeeded before they began taking downforce away will remain at the top, as you say.

  3. “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
    FDR, 1932

    With the 2019 rule changes, it sorta sounds like Nascar is channeling their inner FDR, or using common sense, or both (though, invariably, plenty of fans and writers will proclaim a hatred for FDR and also state that Nascar lacks common sense).

    (I had assumed people know of FDR; however, I just heard a college music appreciation professor mention that a lot of her students have never heard of the Beatles, and FDR long predates the Beatles).

    1. Some would argue that similar rules have been tried before without success so why throw away 4-5 years of development in one direction to go in another. And that’s what stood out to me . At some point, someone said ‘This is the right direction.’ That’s no longer the case. I wonder why? The new package isn’t any safer, it isn’t any less expensive, and if it truly is a message to other potential OEMs, I’ll be surprised.

    1. Both “restrict’ air flow however a plate is basically a thin piece of metal with holes punched in it. Air flow through it and into the engine is ‘ragged’ if that makes sense. Tapered spacers … think of a nozzle on say a tube of frosting. A plate would be just a big opening. A spacer (nozzle) would have a greater impact on the flow of air as travels into the engine. At least that’s how I’ve always pictured it.

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