One of the biggest NASCAR’s tests in recent memory took place at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week. This was the first time that NASCAR was able to collect enough data with enough Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars on the track at the same time drafting.
See, with this new drafting package, the racing is going to be completely different. The drivers taking part in the test likened it to the debut of the Car of Tomorrow. The action that we’re going to see in 2019 will likely look drastically different than anything we’ve ever seen in NASCAR’s premiere series before.
But, is that is a good or bad thing?
There’s no denying it, this new rules package is controversial. Some will love it, others will hate it. This is the absolute storyline of the season.
After one big test though, we saw enough on NASCAR’s live feed to say that the racing is going to look different.
“This new package, the way that it drives, it is as radically different as when we switched to the Car of Tomorrow,” said Kurt Busch. “That’s how much a dramatic difference it is. It’s a lot to adjust to, lot of differences.”
He and everyone else testing said that the off throttle time is minimal. That in turn creates “pack racing.”
Busch, even said that he lost the draft at one point in practice too.
“It’s wide open all the way around but when you do crack the throttle, you do lose a lot of speed and lose a lot of momentum and you’re trying to keep focused on the handling,” said the 2004 series champion. “What we’re trying to do with this package is have a better on-track product and that is to get the cars side-by-side, have the draft down the straightaways, have the drivers have the option more so than the engineers as far as where the speed comes from. It’s more a chess game, trying to balance out this setup and package right now.
“We just have to have better racing on track. That big draft that we saw earlier today, I was wide open and lost the draft in the back. That’s very similar to what you would see at Daytona and Talladega, so it’s just going to happen at a mile-and-a-half track instead of a big track.”
His former teammate Clint Bowyer agrees.
“The cars seemed like they handled well,” said the Stewart Haas Racing driver representative at the test. “Obviously a lot of wide-open throttle time, a lot of the things we knew going in. It’s going to be a work in progress how you balance that drag with downforce. Kind of business as usual for a test.”
One driver was very outspoken about it though. Kyle Busch didn’t quite care for the package, saying that it takes skill away from the drivers.
“We’ve taken the driver’s skill away from the drivers in this package,” said Busch. “Anybody can go out there and run around there and go wide open. It’s a lot more of a mental game. It’s going to be a lot more skill, it’s going to be a lot more chess match, thinking how you’re going to make moves and how daring you will be in making some of those moves and how hard of a time the guy that you’re trying to pass is going to give you back and suck you around or spin you or whatever it might be. We’ll see, we’ll see how that plays out. Overall, it’s going to be interesting.”
Busch and Austin Dillon compared this new package to what the Truck Series has.
See, with the lack of off throttle time, it’s hard to create any separation. With lifting, you can search for lines to get by the car in front and even drive bomb them in the corners. Also, with tire fall off in the past, it naturally creates separation too.
With so much downforce and max grip for extended laps, all the drivers feel like it’s going to be more of a mental game on when to make moves and not so much speed of the car or skill.
While that’s the controversial part, it’s also the part NASCAR was hoping for too. They deemed the test a success so far but won’t go as far as high fiving and jumping in the air in joy though. After all, it’s just a test.
“We’re encouraged by what we saw on the track,” said John Probst, NASCAR VP of Development and Innovation. “But by no means, we’ve all done this long enough, we’re not going to sit here and declare victory or anything. We know that teams are going to keep massaging on this package and we’ve just got to stay with them to make sure that we put on some really exciting races for our fans.”
“We’re trying to make it as competitive as we can from the top to the bottom. I think the one thing you know that is important out of this, we’re not trying to create some artificial level of competition. I think you’re still going to see the good guys are going to go out and win and compete for wins. That’s kind of the way we wanted it to be. That’s probably the way it should be. We want to have entertainment, but we want to keep the competition in it as well.”
How this package looks elsewhere is going to be interesting. Vegas, was recently repaved and the conditions were just right to see this type of action. How will this look at bigger tracks or even other 1.5-milers?
If it looks like this, we’re going to be into a thrilling edge of your seat season.