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NASCAR’s O’Donnell: Not Satisfied With New Rules Package Product

LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 03: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Pennzoil Ford, drives during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil Oil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 3, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

By Toby Christie         

Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gave fans the first full glimpse of what the 2019 season may look like with NASCAR’s new high downforce, low horsepower rules package designed to keep racing closer at the 1.5-mile speedways.

The product on Sunday received mixed reviews from fans on social media, as Stage 1 was dominated by Kevin Harvick. However, there was a bit more entertainment in Stages 2 and 3.

In fact, according to NASCAR’s loop data, the race produced 47 green flag passes for the lead all around the racetrack and 3,345 total green flag passes. According to NASCAR’s Mike Forde, that is the most for both stats in the track’s history.

In the end, we saw a wild final lap duel between Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski for the win, but was it and the loop data enough to save the race and prove the new package to be the savior for the sport? Not quite.

NASCAR’s Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell addressed the product that the new package provided on track.

“What we said from the beginning was that we wanted to see the best car still win,” said O’Donnell. “We wanted the ability — and this isn’t an actual fact story — but if you look up in turns two or turn three during a run you want to see the leader and the ability for second or third at least to be in that shot and have the ability to pass. We saw that. We certainly saw the last stage — 100 lap green flag run with no cautons — top four within 2.5 seconds. So, direction-ally better for sure, but not satisfied. I’m a race fan first and liked what I saw, but feel there’s more to come.”

O’Donnell was correct, there were some encouraging moments throughout the event. But based on his statement, it looks like there may be more tweaks coming for the new rules package as NASCAR continues to walk the tight rope of making it’s sport challenging for competitors yet exciting for those who consume the product on television.

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