What will the effects be of the new low-downforce rules package in the NASCAR Cup Series?
Phoenix Raceway will be the first test of NASCAR’s lower downforce rules package.
Notice anything ˢᵐᵃˡˡᵉʳ for this weekend?
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) March 3, 2020
The sanctioning body decided to go with this adjusted spoiler for this year only at a handful of mile-or-shorter racetracks. It’s a welcomed bandaid after a truly awful string of races at those tracks last year. Who could forget the time that Brad Keselowski led over 450 laps at Martinsville Speedway, or how there was just one non-pit cycle/restart-aided green flag lead change between both races at Dover International Speedway?
We really don’t know who will be the biggest benefactor of this will be. The best driver with a low-downforce rules package in the past five years has been Carl Edwards, who is, well, retired. If the Hendrick Motorsports push can extend outside of intermediate racetracks, watch out for Jimmie Johnson this weekend.
One huge reason for why Johnson has under-performed so much these past few years, even when comparing him with his much younger teammates, has been just how much more downforce these cars have had. As a former Baja rally driver, Johnson is significantly better when the cars are much more loose and out of control. And unlike his younger self, he hasn’t been able to as easily adapt to the higher downforce cars of today; an old dog can’t learn new tricks.
While Kyle Busch is the default best driver when facing unknown situations such as this, in reality he is not this season. Toyota has been very slow out of the start gates, leading just one lap in the two races since Denny Hamlin won at Daytona International Speedway. Busch was only able to finish second at Auto Club Speedway after trouble befell Ryan Blaney in the closing laps; he really didn’t have much for Blaney or race winner Alex Bowman.
Will the new Speedweeks format be successful?
This week, NASCAR revealed its brand new Speedweeks format for next season.
.@NASCAR today will announce that all of Daytona Speedweeks will now be compressed into one week, starting in 2021.
➖ The Busch Clash will now be run on Daytona's road course.
➖ This is part of NASCAR's strategy to shorten the nearly 10-month season and shake up the schedule. pic.twitter.com/1uqzTssGv9
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) March 4, 2020
NASCAR confirms the cars in the Clash won’t be Next Gen cars. Using the current model instead. No one wants to tear up their new stuff in an exhibition. That would be dumb.
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) March 4, 2020
This format isn’t the worst thing in the world. Sure, there are a couple of drawbacks, like really limiting all of the great action that has been going on at New Smyrna Speedway the last few years during off-nights or not giving the media time to adequately report on qualifying. But the positives outweigh the negatives in this change.
It also helps that it was either this or run the first weekend of Speedweeks directly opposite the Super Bowl. So, um, yeah. Good call there by NASCAR.
Fans are going to have big events over six straight days of racing. That’s much more compact than how it is now, with everything very spread out for the TV audience.
It can’t be understated how great this is for the Busch Clash as well. Instead of being one huge wreckfest held after qualifying, the first of many super speedway races for the week, it’s now going to at least be a unique wreck fest. At least the cars that teams will be using for the event will be throwaway Gen 6 cars, very likely the last time we see teams wheel those out above the ARCA Menards Series level.
What will be the continued effects of the COVID-19 virus on motorsports?
An interesting news development to follow over these next couple of months will be the effects of the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus will be on racing around the world.
Any virus with the 3.4% fatality rate the World Health Organization reported this past week is going to be just a wee bit horrifying. And the fact that we still don’t quite understand how easily this is being transferred around has made it weary for plenty of people; outside of just straight up quarantining like China is reportedly doing, this virus has been spreading pretty quickly this past week.
Because of this spread rate, there have already been racing events canceled or postponed in the world, along with plenty of other non-racing events. MotoGP rescheduled its opening event of the season. Formula 1 has already canceled the Chinese GP and an executive said this week it will not hold a GP without every team being accounted for, putting GPs in the coming months in serious jeopardy. The Ultra Music Festival, a multi-day concert series that was to run concurrent with the NASCAR week at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a few weeks, has been postponed.
Eventually, NASCAR put out a statement on Wednesday on the virus saying it is monitoring the situation and that there have been no schedule changes in the works.
What are the possibilities as far as NASCAR are concerned? Very little in the immediate future, but who knows at this point long term. My guess is that, barring an outbreak in the garage, there may very well be spectator bans put in place if the situation gets out of hand in the U.S. NASCAR lives and dies by its TV rights, and I think it would ban spectators before outright cancelling or postponing races. It’s a unique story that NASCAR should consider going forward, as its primary concern should always be keeping the garage and, more importantly, the fans safe.
Is Rick Ware Racing buying Premium Motorsports?
So this is possibly a thing.
BREAKING NEWS: Sources have told us that Premium Motorsports has been sold to Rick Ware Racing. Stay tuned for more details!
— Crew Chief's Corner (@thecrewchief) March 3, 2020
On Tuesday night, Crew Chief’s Corner reported that Rick Ware had bought Premium Motorsports. Bob Pockrass later sent a tweet about the story.
Rick Ware declined to comment when I asked him if he is buying Premium. … There was some chatter in the garage about the possibility last weekend but these things typically take a little bit to finalize (and always a chance of it falling through until it is finalized). #nascar https://t.co/1cFnyT5G4O
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 3, 2020
It should be noted that the two owners, Ware and Jay Robinson, do seem to have a connection or two. The two teams conspired against Gaunt Brothers Racing last year to ensure that Premium’s No. 27 would win big money as the highest ranked non-charter car in owner’s points. Which worked for about two hours before the Reddit police sirens blared and more importantly before NASCAR completed its own secret internal investigation in the matter. NASCAR gave both huge penalties, as it should have; nobody should be allowed to so obviously game the system like that.
If this sale goes through, it would give Ware a monopoly on low-tier cars. Last year, it became clear that while the No. 00 of StarCom Racing and No. 32 of Go FAS Racing weren’t viable, they were still on another planet from RWR and Premium.
We still don’t know just how good or bad a lot of teams are this year, but the results speak for themselves so far. NASCAR should probably step in here pretty soon as well; it’s an open secret in the garage Premium effectively runs Spire Motorsports, and Ware is already bending the charter rules with Petty Ware Racing fielding the No. 51 the last couple of years. I don’t think NASCAR wants an owner having a vested interest in five charters like this.