Package, teams put to test at Las Vegas

NASCAR teams will get their first on-track crack at the 2019 rules package Thursday and Friday as Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosts the season’s first organizational test.

Fourteen teams from the Monster Energy Cup Series are scheduled to participate as well as four from the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Each of the three auto makers, Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, will get track time with individual wheel force cars as well.

For Las Vegas, one of eight 1.5-mile tracks hosting Cup races, the rules package will include the use of a smaller tapered spacer that will reduce engine output from 750 to approximately 550 horsepower and aero ducts which divert airflow from the front of the car.

Other aerodynamic changes are a wider radiator pan (located underneath the front of the car), larger spoiler (8 inches tall, 61 inches long) on the rear deck and a two-inch overhang on the front splitter.

The package is scheduled to be used in 16 of the 36 races in 2019, for events at Las Vegas, Auto Club, Texas, Talladega, Kansas Charlotte, Michigan, Chicago, Daytona (July) Kentucky and Indianapolis.

A similar package, minus the aero ducts, will be used in five events, at Atlanta, Pocono (twice), Darlington and Homestead.

The package for 14 races at shorter tracks and road courses will feature a larger tapered spacer that won’t curtail horsepower and no aero ducts. Tracks hosting those events are ISM (Phoenix), Martinsville, Bristol, Richmond, Dover, Sonoma, New Hampshire, Watkins Glen and Charlotte’s Roval.

Only the season-opening Daytona 500, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 17, will feature the same aero package as was used in 2018.

The hope is that the changes will generate closer competition and more side-by-side racing much like what was seen in last year’s All-Star Race when a similar package was used.

Chad Knaus, the seven-time championship-winning crew chief at Hendrick Motorsports, said recently that the Las Vegas test is important, but “when you go to a test like that everybody holds their cards pretty close to their chest.”

“Nobody is going to know exactly what you’ve got 100 percent,” he said. “So it’s going to be interesting to see how we as a company and how Chevrolet in general stacks up under this new package with the new horsepower.”

Knaus won seven titles as crew chief for Jimmie Johnson. The 2019 season will be his first as crew chief for William Byron.

Johnson, now paired with crew chief Kevin Meendering, will take part in the Las Vegas test for Hendrick’s four-car organization. Only one team per organization is allowed to take part in an organizational test.

“We will be completely connected for sure,” Knaus said. “There will be two representatives from the No. 24 car going to help the No. 48.”

In addition to Johnson, other drivers scheduled to participate in the test are: Landon Cassill (StarCom Racing No. 00 Chevrolet), Kurt Busch (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet), Ryan Newman (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford), Ty Dillon (Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet), Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota), Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford), Bubba Wallace (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet), Ryan Preece (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet), Cody Ware (Rick Ware Racing No. 51 Chevrolet) and Matt DiBenedetto (Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Toyota).

Xfinity Series drivers participating are Zane Smith and Noah Gragson (JRM Motorsports Chevrolet), Riley Herbst (Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) and Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing Ford).

Practice is scheduled for 11 a.m.-10 p.m. ET Thursday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday.

For fans in the area interested in attending the test, the grandstands and infield will be open.

NASCAR.com will offer a live, four-hour show from the track on Thursday beginning at 11 a.m. ET.

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