HAMPTON, GA – The hype around this weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is huge. See, the official start of the new rules package for the 2019 season and beyond will take place at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
With Atlanta being a 1.54-mile track, many fans feel like this is the first true test. Despite that, the drivers warn that this is just the start of this and to not base the changes of the new aero package until next week at Las Vegas at the very earliest.
“We really don’t know either,” Kevin Harvick said on what we could expect this weekend in Atlanta. “That is the question. We don’t have that answer. I can tell you that it will be drastically different than what we have done before. We have not raced this package. That is the bottom line.
“Right now we don’t have anything to evolve because we don’t have any answers. We have more questions with zero answers actually.”
David Ragan, a Georgia native, said that Atlanta is just 50-percent of the new rules package. With reducing horsepower (750 to 550) but not having the aero ducts, this race isn’t going to be like the others with less horsepower and aero ducts in the front end.
Also, Atlanta’s surface is worn out, unlike most of the others tracks. The track itself and reconfigured and repaved in 1997. It hasn’t been updated other than some minimal repairs since.
That has led to some high tire wear as lap times fall off as quickly as the tires in Atlanta. Lasting a full fuel stint will cost you a lot of track time. But, you also gain in the department of pinning other cars a lap down. The strategy comes into play in that if you pit, you have fresh tires and much better lap times to unlap yourself.
So, despite a new aero package, you won’t see the full effect due to the tire wear that will likely still happen. It won’t be as fast, but the tires will still fall off.
“Nobody has any real idea about anything,” said 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr.
Others echoed his statements. Even with drafting being allowed in qualifying, teams found that you’re quicker to run around Atlanta in a single car run instead of with drafting help.
That says a lot.
Next week in Vegas for example, the track was recently repaved and doesn’t have the tire fall off. That in turn means drivers can remain flat out around the track for multiple laps which in turn creates closer racing. Also, Vegas will have the aero ducts too.
Lower horsepower, more grip and more drag.
Atlanta in only one of five races all year to have this package without the aeroducts. The others will have the aeroducts and varying horsepower.
What we know is track position is key and that the racing mid pack on will be intense. It’s just going to be crazy restarts to get track position this week.