There are basically two different rules packages for NASCAR in 2019, depending on the size of the racetrack.
The package for short tracks is quite similar to the 2018 package, with cars running at around 750 horsepower and plenty of downforce. For tracks a mile and a half and longer, the engines will be restricted to a target of 550 horsepower, creating more downforce and more air flow through the front of the cars. The desired result is racing with cars close together, but with more throttle response than the 2018 All-Star Race package, which is the closest rules compilation for comparison purposes.
The first rule that will be in place for all tracks — no matter the size — after the Daytona 500 is a 61-inch wide spoiler that stands eight inches high off of the back of the car. This will create more drag and more downforce.
This change is a departure from the 2015-18 package, which was designed for lesser drag and downforce on the cars. The low downforce package ultimately resulted in higher corner entry speeds that made tire development a little more challenging for Goodyear. Obviously, putting more downforce on the rear of the car will result in the front of the car wanting to lift and feel lighter. NASCAR has responded by requiring the splitter overhang to be two inches. That, in combination with a radiator pan that is 37 inches wide and tapering to 31 inches, should balance the downforce front to back and make the cars neutral.
There will also be aero/brake ducts that will be open on some tracks and closed on others. The thought being that getting the air through the front of the car will get the air away from the front tires and get the air flow more efficiently around the car. Sideskirts and other aerodynamic aids will not be changed.
The biggest change will be the tapered spacer utilized on the larger race tracks. The Daytona 500 will be contested with the 2018 package and a restrictor plate.
After that, all races 1.5 mile and longer on an oval will be contested with a tapered spacer with an opening of .922 inch. The thought is to try and limit the Cup engines to approximately 550 horsepower.
This will have to be monitored all season long and potentially tweaked as teams find more horsepower with the restricted air flow. The end result will be something similar to the All-Star Race package of 2018, but with more throttle response.
NASCAR hopes drivers will be able to slingshot to pass and the entire field will stay closer together but the driver will have more input than the restricted engines of the past on Daytona and Talladega.
What will this mean for the racing and for fans in 2019?
Nobody really knows until we see the cars hit the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway in February. For fans of ingenuity and driver skill, this will probably be a tough pill to swallow. Most likely there won’t be much separation from the fastest cars and the slowest cars on the bigger tracks.
At the same time, if drafting and slingshot passing becomes a thing, the racing could turn out to be exceptional. The racing could turn into a true thinking man’s game where plotting the move and when it takes place will determine who wins races more than the car that is the fastest.
If drafting and passing becomes easier, the pressure on pit crews may lessen. If the passing and drafting doesn’t change, ,then you’ll end up with some 27 races next year where all 40 cars run around the track two or three wide for the entire event.
Let’s all hope for the former.