Now that the glamour that comes with all the festivities at Daytona has officially come and gone, the real season can officially begin. The long 10-month run from coast to coast, and border to border, begins this week with the annual trip to Atlanta.
But this race feels quite a bit different than it has in the last several years.
Let’s keep this in mind, since 2015, the teams and this gen-6 car have been wanting to have more driver input on the setup and the driving of the cars in the race. The rules package for 2015 was trying to give that, but the problem was once these cars got single-file, and it became extremely difficult to pass. What it did was make the racing not that exciting, and frustrated a lot of drivers.
So, that year for a few races, NASCAR tried a couple different packages to see what teams liked. The “high drag” design for Indianapolis and Michigan was okay, but it meant most of the passing was coming on restarts or in the draft. But, the low downforce package used at Kentucky and Darlington was extremely satisfying.
Over the last several years, less and less downforce went into the cars, and made for some good racing. But then last year, at the All-Star Race, a package with a very tall spoiler, a bigger splitter edge, and of all things a restrictor plate were utilized to see how the action could change if there was more downforce given, but with less horsepower.
Turns out, it wasn’t a bad event at all. Teams treated it like they would Daytona and Talladega, but with more input from the driver, and maybe more maneuvering.
For 2019, a similar package is being utilized with a longer splitter edge, and a taller spoiler. The spoiler is so tall, the last inch is actually clear so that drivers can see over the decklid with the mirror.
The addition of a tapered spacer means less horsepower, and at least for this race there’s no openings for the ductwork on the front end for the brakes, to help with downforce. This package is almost a return to a similar design back in 2014, but with less power however more driver input.
Atlanta is a great track to use this package at first because the track is big, it’s known for high speeds, but also the track is extremely old. This place has not been repaved since it went to the current 1.54-mile configuration in 1997. The asphalt is aged, worn in, and tears up tires like Darlington used to do back in the day.
If there’s ever a track that the driver is going to have his hands full with this new package, this will be it. Trying to get a handle on the new rules on a track that is slick, fast, and uneasy in some areas will be the ultimate test. It won’t be until next weekend when the full rules package will be rolled out with the duct openings in the nose, so this is sort of a prelude to what’s coming.
All of us have to reserve judgment on how the package works because this is the first time seeing what it will do. No one judges a dish before they try it, nor a vehicle without test driving, so there’s no reason to pass a judgment on new rules that are untested.
Guess we will find out how it works at the end of Atlanta. Let’s get that green flag in the air.