NASCAR has unveiled the rules package for the 2019 Monster Energy Cup Series season, based on the one used at the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race in May and throughout the 2018 Xfinity Series season. It was released on Tuesday.
“It’s really been over a two-year process, working with the race teams, the OEMs, specifically the engine builders and probably the most collaborative effort we’ve had across all the industry stakeholders, including the drivers, to get to this package,” NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell stated in a NASCAR.com article. “For us, it’s really a focus on getting back to a true focus on the drivers and what NASCAR is all about — close side-by-side racing and trying to deliver more of that.”
The 2019 package is intended to promote closer racing and better drafting, though at the expense of lower horsepower.
The horsepower, which is currently at 750, will be greatly reduced to just 550 thanks to the introduction of a smaller tapered spacer; the 2018 All-Star package, which utilized restrictor plates, had a horsepower of 400. The spacer, which is 1.17 inches (2.97 cm) wide in 2018, is reduced to .922 inches (2.34 cm). Aero ducts will also be utilised. This package will be used at tracks longer than one mile (1.61 km), meaning 17 of the 36 scheduled races will feature both the spacer and ducts. Five races – Atlanta Motor Speedway, both Pocono Raceway races, Darlington Raceway, and Homestead-Miami Speedway – will not feature the ducts but will keep the spacer. Neither will be used at short tracks and road courses.
While the horsepower reduction is drastic, it may assist new manufacturers in joining the sport as the current rate is considered too expensive.
Aerodynamic-wise, there are three modifications that will be present for all 36 races in an effort to raise downforce, a far cry from recent years in which NASCAR had reduced downforce to make handling more difficult. The spoiler is raised to 8 x 61 inches (20.32 x 154.94 cm), while the front splitter and radiator pan are larger at a 2-inch (5.08 cm) overhang and a 37 x 31 inches (93.98 x 78.74 cm), respectively.
“We think that’ll put it more in the drivers’ hands, especially as we go to some of the intermediate tracks, and are excited to see how that plays out,” O’Donnell commented, adding the hope that it will raise the importance of racing over aerodynamics and testing.
With the spacer, restrictor plates will not be used at future Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway races for the first time since 1987, though the season-opening 2019 Daytona 500 will continue to use the original plate package.
The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta will be the first race with the new package.
Fans and media have expressed skepticism about the setup, arguing lower speeds will harm the product and will result in pack racing akin to that seen at place tracks occurring at every circuit. O’Donnell responded, “Let me dispel the myth NASCAR is interested in pack racing everywhere. […] That’s not at all where we’re trying to get to.”
Reporters have also clarified it is not a permanent change as it will serve as a bridge between the Generations 6 and 7 cars. O’Donnell said:
“I think it’s important for a fan to let it play out, right? I’ve heard it from some of the drivers, but I’ve also heard the opposite from some of the drivers, and I think wha’’s important to focus on for next year is we want the focus to be on the drivers. They’re our stars and the athletes as well as our teams. If you look at where the sport is today, I think the balance might be a little out of whack in terms of the importance of aerodynamics versus the driver and the car, and so the purpose of this is really to put it back in the drivers’ hands.
“We’ve got the best drivers in the world. We want to see them out there side by side. We’ve seen this package play out already, we’ve seen the best drivers and teams win.”
Other changes include requiring the use of the enhanced vehicle chassis (EVC) for all races, decreasing the number of Goodyear tire tests from four to three (along with the number of participating teams from four to three), and increasing the number of races that permit the use of the sealed block engines.