The chapter has now been closed on the old aero package in NASCAR’s premiere series. With that being said, the dawn of a new era in NASCAR is upon us. Last week’s race at Daytona was the official end of any past aero configuration for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. While it was a restrictor plate race, the Daytona 500 was run with a similar aero package of that we’ve seen in 2018 and prior.
This weekend in Atlanta, the Cup Series will officially hit the track with the new aero configuration that will run for the 2019 season and beyond. Some call it the drafting package. Others call it the restrictor plate package. Whatever you want to call it, they’re right in theory, but there aren’t any “restrictor plates” being used.
Instead, we’ll see tapered spacers on all Cup cars this weekend moving forward. Without getting all technical, the basis is that they’re being used to increase the drag of a car (slow them down) and also allow for cars to run closer together (suck up behind a car in front easier).
That in turn will create a completely different race than what we’ve seen in the past. That means all my preview articles using past stats are now irrelevant. Nothing in the past matters. How can it? This racing isn’t going to be remotely the same as its been or what we’ve witnessed before. It’s not going to be in the same zip code.
So, does that hurt a driver like Kevin Harvick? In 28 career Cup starts at Atlanta, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has two wins, two poles, seven top five finishes and 13 top 10’s. He’s led an astounding 1,152 laps during his Cup career there.
To further this point, as an example, last year Harvick started third and won. He led 191 laps. The year prior, he started on the pole and led 292 laps but finished ninth. He only finished there because of a pit road penalty with 25 laps-to-go while leading. He’s led at least 116 laps in five straight years on the 1.5-mile Georgia track. If you go back to 2012, he’s led 100 or more laps six times in seven tries.
Since 2009, he’s finished in the top 10 10 times in a 12 starts including five top five finishes. Also, in his last 12 NASCAR XFINITY Series starts, Harvick has five wins, two runner-ups and three fourth place runs. His worst finish in that time frame is 12th. He’s also led 100+ laps in six of his last 10 XFINITY Series starts too.
So, how will a new racing package affect this past dominance from Harvick at Atlanta?
While we don’t know the answer to that just yet, we do know that with what little we’ve seen of this new package so far, I highly doubt Harvick, or anyone else for that nature, leads more than 100 laps by themselves in Sunday’s race.
What about Brad Keselowski? He hasn’t finished worse than ninth since 2014. He won in 2017 and finished runner-up last year. Going back to 2011, his Atlanta finishes are – 6th, 3rd, 35th, 39th, 9th, 9th, 1st and 2nd respectively.
How does this rules package affect him?
What about some other drivers?
Kyle Larson – 2nd in 2017, 9th in 2018 in Cup, 5th, 3rd, 10th, 2nd, 3rd in five XFINITY Series starts.
Chase Elliott – 8th, 5th, 10th in Cup. Two fifth place runs in XFINITY and a fifth place run in Trucks too.
Kurt Busch – Nine top eight finishes in his last 12 Atlanta starts. He led 129 laps in a win in 2010.
Kyle Busch – Four top seven finishes in his last five starts including a win in 2013. He has eighth straight top seven finishes in the XFINITY Series including two consecutive wins and four runner-ups (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013).
Joey Logano – Four top six finishes in his last six Atlanta starts. Was runner-up in 2013 (led 78 laps) and fourth in 2015 (led 84 Laps). Has six top six finishes in as many tries in the XFINITY Series (6th, 6th, 6th, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd respectively).
Martin Truex Jr. – Four straight top eight finishes and six in his last seven starts.
Safe to say, anything these drivers above had figured out in order to be so successful at Atlanta, throw it all out the window. This will be new.