The Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 at Atlanta will be our first live race action test of the new NASCAR rules package for 2019. Although aero ducts will not be in place at Atlanta like will be the case elsewhere, the horsepower in the cars will be restricted to 550 from 850-plus. As evidenced in off season testing this should result in a more closely contested 1.5-mile race than we’ve seen in recent years.
Drafting will be at a premium as cars will be full-throttle for several laps at a time at most tracks, which will make it where the leaders can’t break too far away from the competition.
“There are going to be times when drivers are going to get a little less patient with the folks in front of them and they’re going to go two- and three-wide, and that will force the drivers behind them to make decisions on who to go with,” NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development John Probst said Thursday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s On Track show. “I think you’re going to see that ebb and flow.”
That being said, will the new package dramatically increase parity?
In the long run, I believe yes. Drivers and teams that haven’t had realistic chances at top-10 finishes at the intermediate ovals should have a much better chance to compete throughout the 2019 season.
Drivers such as Bubba Wallace who drives for Richard Petty Motorsports, Michael McDowell who drives for Front Row Motorsports and Corey LaJoie who drives for Go FAS Racing are among the many names who should benefit from the latest NASCAR rule change.
However, I think early on — especially at Atlanta which is a track known to wear out tire rubber — the advantage will still lie on the big-three drivers in the sport.
I fully expect Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. or Kyle Busch to lead the charge this weekend in Hampton, GA — as does NASCAR’s Probst.
“I think they’re going to learn as they go, but the cream of the crop is still going to be at the top We’re not trying to change any of that,” Probst said. “Time will tell for the rest of them in how they pick up the new package.”
But it will be nice to see that they won’t be cruising to a 10-second lead en route to their latest 1.5-mile victory.
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