What’s different when NASCAR heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend?
First off, a new element of the new rules package will not have any impact on the races in Atlanta this weekend.
Aero ducts, of everything NASCAR changed with the new rules package this is the thing I’m most excited about. However, the aero ducts are not used at Daytona, Talladega, Pocono, Atlanta or tracks under 1-mile.
These aero ducts are designed to channel air from the front of the lead car to the nose of the car behind. Air is forced through ducts on the front nose. It’s then funneled out by the front wheels.
The air glides around the sides of the cars. When it reaches the back, it’s designed to dump air on the nose of the trailing car. This is designed to reduced the loss of nose downforce when passing. Specifically, it will help reduce the aero push.
But, that won’t be in place this weekend, at all. That specific element won’t make it’s debut until the week after in Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
So what’s new for NASCAR at Atlanta Motor Speedway?
Everything else from the rule package announced for 2019.
-Taller 8-inch by 61-inch rear spoiler.
-Larger front splitter with a 2-inch overhang.
-Wider radiator pan that measures 37 inches wide in the front tapering to 31 inches at the rear.
-550hp engine (down from 750+ in this race last year).
In the last trip to Atlanta, none of the above items were in place.
New NASCAR inspection rules
Beyond changes to the cars, it’s the first 1.5-mile track on the schedule. It’s exactly the type of tracks where NASCAR teams have been known to push the boundaries of the rule book.
NASCAR has a new system in place for 2019. They are far less tolerant across the board.
1 NASCAR inspection failure: No harm no foul, go to the end of the line and try again.
2 NASCAR inspection failures: If a team fails twice times then they lose their car chief for the duration of the weekend. Previously, this penalty required three failures.
3 NASCAR inspection failures: If a team fails three times then they lose their car chief and will not be allowed to qualify. They start at the rear.
4 NASCAR inspection failures: If a team failed four times then they lose a car chief, miss qualifying and they have to make a pass through on lap 1 of the race.
The ‘changing of the culture’ in regards to NASCAR inspection was in place last weekend at Daytona. But, Daytona isn’t a track that usually brings inspection failures, Atlanta certainly is.
Three teams failed pre-qualifying inspection last week ahead of the Daytona 500. All three had their car chiefs ejected for the duration of Speedweeks.
Post-race inspection: Disqualifications are now in the rule book. This is brand new for 2019.
If a team fails post-race inspection, they are disqualified from the race. And we won’t find out on Tuesday. Instead, we’ll find out just two hours after the race.
What are those NASCAR rule changes designed to do to the cars?
All of those changes to the body are designed to do the same thing, increase downforce and increase drag. In turn, this will slow the cars down.
Beyond aerodynamics, the 200hp reduction will also slow the cars down. They will still be fast race cars, just not as fast as before. And you won’t be able to tell the difference.
The combination of less horsepower and more drag are both designed to slow the cars down. But, the reason for that is all based on aerodynamics, it’s not that the cars are going too fast.
The faster the cars go, the more important aerodynamics are. At the same time, faster means a bigger hole punched in the air and the higher the deficit of downforce on the trailing car.
NASCAR is slowing the cars down to the speeds of the 1990’s. It’s a time period where NASCAR saw a boom in popularity, with good reason.
I just wish the aero ducts were used everywhere but Daytona and Talladega.
What should you expect? Nobody really knows. The goal is certainly to create more passing, less multi-second gaps to the leader and remove the aerodynamic disadvantages to the car trying to make a pass.
Will it work? Of course, all of those things will certainly make it easier to pass and reduce the dreadful aero push. Will you like it? Maybe.
Clint Bowyer on new NASCAR rules
“Well, everybody’s got their opinion on what we’re going see, but only time will paint that picture,” said the driver of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Mustang ahead of the race.
“I think it could be drastically different than what we have ever seen. My opinion is, it’s going to be different. I don’t know how much different, I don’t know what kind of different, I just know it’s going to be different than what we know as the norm on a mile-and-a-half.”
“Um, will they be drafting? I think. How much drafting? I don’t know.”