After weeks of speculation, NASCAR announced Thursday morning (June 21) that the aero package used in the All-Star race in Charlotte on May 19 will not be used again in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season, but left open the possibility of a similar package in 2019.
The All-Star package included aero ducts, a higher spoiler, restrictor plates, and a splitter similar to the one used in 2014.
The package was used in the XFINITY Series at Indianapolis last season, and this season at Pocono and Michigan, and will be used again at IMS on Sept. 8, in an attempt to achieve easier passing and tighter competition.
“Everyone is aligned on doing what’s best for the fans,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said to NASCAR.com. “As we went through that process of discussing (the drafting package) following the All-Star Race, we all realized we have something that could work. We had a lot of detailed conversations, but in the end, we all felt like the best thing to do was to put some additional effort into some potential tweaks and focus on 2019 versus a race or two this season.”
Fan reaction on the Pocono NXS was unenthusiastic, though Michigan seemed to provide a better racing experience.
“One of the clear takeaways is that this is not something you would want to implement at every race track,” O’Donnell said. “There are certain race tracks we want to potentially target. Finding the optimal horsepower-to-downforce ratio will be a key focal point to continue to improve the race package.”
Drivers have had mixed reactions to the All-Star package.
“I think that package needs to remain solely at the All-Star race,” Brad Keselowski stated at Michigan. “[Drivers] chose Cup racing because of the demands the cars take to drive. I think there are a lot of fans that come to our races expecting to see the best drivers.”
If the package was used on a consistent basis, Keselowski continued, then “the best drivers in the world would no longer go to NASCAR. They’ll pick a different sport. That won’t happen overnight. That will happen over time.”
Former MENCS driver Mark Martin agrees:
I have kept my opinion to myself so far but have to agree 100% with @keselowski As a driver I would be crushed if our racing was reduced to a majority of restrictor plate races. That’s not what the best stock car racing in the world should be. https://t.co/6xKZSmued5
— Mark Martin (@markmartin) June 9, 2018
Denny Hamlin had a differing opinion. “As a driver, I had fun, I really did,’’ he said during a sponsor appearance in May. “Didn’t have the fastest car, but at least there were moments where you had to be very strategic in what you had to do. It was a mix between a normal open race and a superspeedway. … I’d like to see it at a few other tracks. if it came this year, it would definitely be OK by me.’’
Monster Energy All-Star race winner Kevin Harvick offered cautious optimism in his postrace press conference at Charlotte: “I’d like to see it slowly transformed into points paying races because I think the preparation level will be a little bit different from every team in the garage. I just want to make sure we cycle it in correctly, make sure it fits in well for the teams to be able to afford the things that need to be done to get the cars right. …When you look at NASCAR racing in five years, I think you’ll look back at tonight and say it looks like this and it all started here.”
The races at the upcoming 1.5-mile tracks before the playoffs, Chicagoland and Kentucky, did not provide enough preparation time for teams in order for NASCAR to feel comfortable testing out the All-Star package.