Well, needless to say everyone was anticipating an exciting, wild, and intense race with the entire new rules package put into full effect.
A progressively banked race track, higher speeds, and utilizing the draft at a place outside of Daytona and Talladega meant there was a big opportunity for excitement, something this package was meant to do. And to an extent, it did, but unfortunately it only lasted for just a little while.
Yes, when the race began and then also on the only two restarts seen on the afternoon, both for stage breaks, there was intense racing. Four-wide into the corners, and cars were sucking up quicker with the faster corner speeds clearly meant for better racing. Drivers had to keep the cars wound up to keep up with the pack because at any moment, getting out of the gas killed momentum, as if a parachute was let out.
So, there is no real opinion yet to give on the 2019 package, because we only got to see the potential of it for at most four instances.
The track that is at this point going to showcase what this whole package can do is shaping up to be California.
Whether they use the aerodynamic ducts or decide on the brake ducts for this track is uncertain, but the fact of the matter is this track is extremely wide, and that means multiple lines to choose from. Do teams decide to keep the cars wound up or ride the line, or even below it? The thing about that question is that with this package, corner speeds are up, and time out of the throttle is reduced. Like many have said, it’s like plate racing every week.
You take a track that is that big, and that fast, and take away the aspect of even getting out of the throttle, it is a recipe for both intensity and disaster.
Does that mean the package is already a failure…no, but it’s not a success either. Keep in mind, this is the first major downforce package we’ve seen since the 2015 season, and the racing on the intermediate tracks that season was very bel0w standard. At the same time, when NASCAR tried to increase the drag on the cars with those tall spoilers, with a wicker no less (throwing it back to 2001 with that change), it didn’t work either.
Drivers wanted lower downforce, but then when they got it, the racing suffered. The best racing on a 1.5-mile track we saw last year was at the All-Star Race, a race that saw restrictor plates on the engines and fins on the spoilers.
Sunday had some of that kind of racing, but it’s not yet time to give an opinion. Another two or three weeks, and we may have one.
What I do have an opinion on is the fact that Ford is on a tear once again to start the season. Two races, two wins by Penske Racing, and the new Mustang is performing better than expected to start the season.
In comparison to Chevrolet a season ago with the Camaro ZL1, the group at Ford Motor Company did their homework and decided to really put the true muscle behind their muscle car entry into Cup competition. Add in the fact that it was the second straight win for Penske, a 1-2 sweep no less, and it was practically the perfect week for the organization. Roger Penske celebrated a birthday, Brad Keselowski won at Atlanta, then their sports car team won in Australia, with a new Mustang no less.
Then cap the week off with a near sweep of Vegas; if there is a jackpot in this business, Penske nearly hit it.
Currently, this team has the momentum that Kevin Harvick had at this point one season ago, minus the penalty for the now infamous rear window incident at this track. The biggest difference also between this year and a season ago, we have three races with three different winners. There is no clear dominant driver, or drivers, to start the year. There is a dominant team, but no individual success stories.
That could be different when we get to Phoenix next week. For now, the Ford teams will be riding this wave of success and hope that it continues.