NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Should NASCAR Make a Change to the 550 HP Package After 2020 Season?

What was it about Sunday’s (Oct. 18) race that left people with strong feelings, both good and bad? Was it the fact that Joey Logano, a driver who came into the weekend with just one win, is now running for the championship? Is it the fact that for the last 40 laps of the Hollywood Casino 400 Kevin Harvick tried to chase down Logano but, because of the way the air flowed between his car and Logano’s, he was barely able to get alongside Logano, let alone pass him?

Whatever the reason, suddenly the buzz about NASCAR’s 550 HP package that is used for most of the 1.5-mile tracks and above had changed. Fans on social media began to wonder if this package was the one NASCAR should move forward with on 1.5-mile tracks.

This package was introduced at the start of 2019, and while some will argue that this package was never loved from the beginning, there was a clear indication that the package was generally accepted by the fan base. NASCAR’s Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell has released data stating that, according to their research, 80% of the fan base likes the 550 HP package.

Those numbers certainly weren’t true if you were scanning social media after Sunday’s race. With NASCAR’s new car being delayed until 2022, we’ll have this package for one more year, and that got us thinking.

Is it time for NASCAR to change the 550 HP package? We pitched this question to our writers, and Mark Kristl and Vito Pugliese volunteered to offer their takes and discuss what they think NASCAR should do moving forward.

There’s No Sense in a One-Year Change

I agree that this package is not good. But making alterations to it for only one year, especially after teams financially suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, makes no sense. NASCAR has helped a lot of teams recover from the economic blow; changing a package and adding costs negates all the hard work the series has done.

Right now, teams aren’t practicing or qualifying, and NASCAR currently plans to keep that format for some races in 2021. Teams have put in a lot of work to gather setup data with no practice sessions. If NASCAR changes the 550 HP package after just one year, they’ll have wasted time and money.

This year has been a struggle for many teams. Take Germain Racing and Leavine Family Racing, both of which will shut down at the end of the season due to lack of sponsorship, or the incoming teams that have already started prepping for next year. Adding extra costs by changing the package makes the problem of NASCAR’s expenses worse, and new teams will have yet another thing to learn.

And while we criticize this package, there are instances where it has not been an utter failure. On the intermediate race tracks, this package has made the racing better, especially early in runs. A new package will also have its ups and downs depending on the type of track.

Instead of making changes to the package, costing teams money and complicating races for crew chiefs, NASCAR could look to other options to improve the quality of racing: changing the schedule, alter race length, eliminate PJ1, etc. All of those options could be implemented next year.

The NextGen car isn’t far off, and it looks to solve the problems we’re having. Why change this package for one year when something brand new – and possibly better  – is coming in 2022? – Mark Kristl

Governed Race Cars Ruin Racing

This weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway was another playoff race where Joey Logano was a story line leaving the event. No, he didn’t get into it with Matt Kenseth again, but he did make the No. 22 too wide for Kevin Harvick to pass in the closing laps. It was another race where blocking took precedent over passing, which makes me ask – is this power level sustainable in the long term for the pinnacle of North American stock car racing? I don’t think so.

NASCAR has been reducing power for five years, eventually bringing it down to the 550 HP package for one-mile or longer tracks. We’ve seen a slew of just-OK finishes that both the power problem and some aerodynamic problems have been unable to solve.

Several years ago, NASCAR determined the problem with the inability to pass was the fact that corner speeds were too high. It tried many configurations: high drag/high horsepower, low drag/high horsepower and ultimately where we are today, low horsepower and reduced downforce. What has resulted has been an uninspiring result, producing frantic passing for five laps after a restart, and then cars running wide open, barely breathing it in the corners. Corner speeds are up, and with four engine suppliers powering the field, the horsepower equation has been equalized and rendered nearly bulletproof, to the point where attrition has become an afterthought.

I understand the decision to pause on any major horsepower wars at the moment. NASCAR did its damndest to piece together a season after a pandemic that nobody could have possibly predicted. So, if the upcoming platform has to be 550 HP, why isn’t the engine being used a crate engine from each of the manufactures that is representative of a production offering? Why worry so much about regulating race cars when you can just give them the machinery its stock counterpart will leave the lot with?

Anybody with a 650 FICO score can walk out of a Ford, Chevrolet, or Dodge dealership with a 650-800 horsepower car today – and has been able to for the last five years. Fiat Chrysler is more than happy to shove 700-horsepower engines in their trucks and SUVs for that matter. Even the more pedestrian version of the street going NASCAR inspirations are tickling 500 horsepower with a 36,000 mile warranty. Throw some basic speed parts at it, and you’ve got an actual STOCK production engine racing series to market around. I’m sure Toyota could figure something out with their 13-year old truck engine, and still meet the pedestrian power ratings that are being laid down.

With a move towards shorter tracks and road courses, it feels like NASCAR is moving more towards a series that can sustain what stock cars are actually laying down today. – Vito Pugliese

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transfered to AWeber ( more information )
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

About Clayton Caldwell

Avatar
Clayton has been writing NASCAR for the last seven years and has followed the sport for as long as he can remember. He's a Jersey boy with dreams of hoping one day to take his style south and adding a different kind of perspective to auto racing.

22 comments

  1. Avatar

    Great “fact checking” in this article. Correct facts do matter but are strangely absent. Shows how invested the author of this article is. Anyhoo, another article whining about something that has been going on for many a race..many. The “fastest” car doesn’t always win. Just a fact.

    Harvick if memory serves led 85, Chase 48, Joey 47..hardly a “put on a clinic” for Harvick. And that is not a dig on Harvick. The inference that Logano was a one hit lap wonder is subtle…it reeks of “he doesn’t deserve it”.

    I can see the little fists of fury punching at the clouds and feet stomping on Moms newly varnished hardwood floors! It happens all the time! Funny how this whining starts, always starts with the temper tantrum children crowd, when a certain driver get a win, a win that they don’t approve of! Excuses galore, anything to discredit! We don’t like it..CHANGE IT, HANG HIM, BURN HIM..blah, blah, blah. Amazing times we live in! SMH. My two cents on this faux outrage because of who won, and the traction it gets! Reminds me of the current BS, the squeaky wheel must tell you how unhappy they are and you must change it…or else!!!!!!!

    Valid points regarding “dirty air” etc. But why is when a certain driver wins it is all of a sudden a crime against humanity and some in the NASCAR community are apoplectic? Joe Blow Clyde does it and he is THE BILL ELLIOTT GOD of today! NASCAR fans are nuts. A drivers job it to win, for his team, the owner, his sponsors, his fans. Joey did his job with the rules afforded all of them, they all do! Sunday, he just did it better. Whether folks like it or not. That is a fact. . Don’t derogate that win because you got issues, go kick sand at Castle Daytona!!

    Since the inception of this stupid “playoff” format I have ranted for years at the windmills and NASCAR didn’t hear me. I blamed the drivers who did their job. Some time ago I started to place blame where it belongs, Castle Daytona!

    • Avatar

      “degragate”

    • Avatar

      Hmm I dont care that Joey won. Can’t stand him but hey, he did what he has to do with this package. I havent watched a race in months both too busy and when I do turn one on I find it stupid boring between the screechy announcers and clean air infection produced by this package. There is racing going on in the back but would never know it cause they are focused on big names anyways.

      Correct me if I am wrong here tho, Joey and Harvick were both on 4 new tires. Harvick just couldnt overcome the dirty air? That is this package. I have complained about it when they introduce the lower HP and high downforce. It is a disaster unless you like restarts….

      So at least it wasnt Joey holding off a faster Harvick on 2 tires vs 4 tires like we saw a few times last year with I think it was Truex holding off Harvick then.

      • Avatar

        All part of the many components that go into winning and holding off the guy behind you. One skill set does not invalidate the other. There was a skill to what went down, and Logano mastered it. Like it or not. Things are calculated and he did his job with the package that he had to work with. Funny we watched this for a long time, because of the vocal social media drama queens this is now an issue that must be addressed ASAP! As we watched it for some time and NASCAR and the media fell on deaf ears, not about the driver…but the package!!!!!!!!!

        Much like his 2018 Cup Win. I swear people are not happy unless they are are whining for their cause! He did his job, don’t have to like it. NASCAR fans and the media are hypocrites. Always crying with the pitch forks and torches at the ready when it is something perfectly legal, well done…fill in the blanks. All because the whiners that are produced today at an alarming rate DON’T LIKE IT, so it must be changed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where was this outrage when others won, or when NASCAR lowered the HP for all because JGR AND TOYS engines were going BOOM??????? And they have been tweaking this “package” ever since! Yes there was concern but never because of a driver. I have no words for this bullshit. But it is what the world is today with the sewage of social media.

  2. Avatar

    This is nothing new. I can understand why initial reactions to this package were positive and now they are not. This package gives the ILLUSION of close racing because the lead car can’t open up a 10 second lead on the cars running behind. This makes it LOOK better. Unfortunately the same aero issues exist and after several races people figure out that it’s an illusion and that nothing is really changed. If you watch a magician perform the same trick a hundred times eventually you figure it out.

    NASCAR needs to go back to the drawing board. There may not be an answer. If all the cars are too equal then it may not matter. Maybe the way to fix this is to allow teams more leeway on what they can do to the car adjustment wise and setup wise. Tires that wear out are most important. Ideally, tires should wear out BEFORE fuel does. That would make the fastest cars pay a price over a long run. Of course it doesn’t help that stage racing robs us of a lot of long, green flag runs.

    • Avatar

      In 2022 the problem of “all cars being equal” will be worse, not better. The Plastic Son-of-COT Cup kit cars will (supposedly) be identical – same aero, same horsepower. Nothing has probably been done to the new cars to address the aero push problem. What the new car will do is send dozens of fab techs to the unemployment line, which the car owners think will make their faulty business models somehow work. NASCAR will just keep making these superficial changes, but the quality of racing won’t improve.

      • Avatar

        Lots has been done to improve the aero push on these cars. The goal of the design is to allow more driver input and less aero. No one wants aero racing.

        Engine will remain the same for 2022, however, changes are coming for 2023 engine.

  3. Avatar

    *Should* they? Yes.

    *Will* they? No.

  4. Avatar

    How I’d love for the cars to be allowed to race with a full 800+ horsepower at every track on the circuit. I want to see, hear, and feel full performance.

    This includes Talladega and Daytona. I don’t have a problem with the cars stringing out and I hate artificial pack racing that gives the drivers no room for error and puts dozens of drivers in significant danger (and we see numerous cars needlessly destroyed–the owners don’t have endless pockets). If we reconfigure the stands at Daytona and Talladega to have a gap between the track and the front rows (like at Pocono), we can do this safely for the fans (less cars will get airborne when not racing in packs, but this way we have some distance if one car does go airborne in the tri-oval at 220 mph). Give the cars full horsepower at Daytona and Talladega and we’ll probably see cars have to lift–now we bring throttle control back into the equation and you don’t have to make banzai moves in packs because you are so dependent on the draft and could move from 4th to 32nd in a lap.

    We can push the limits of performance in stocks cars today, let the truly great drivers and teams shine, and do so in a fashion far safer than what we have now.

    Whether that comes in 2021 or not, I understand it may not be financially feasible for the teams to make all these changes for a car we have one more year. (We already have them dinking with a dirt race next year, too.) We aren’t getting another huge TV contract. It’s not 1999 anymore. We’ve lost all the bandwagon fans and have driven away a lot of real race fans. Let’s move back to real racing. Real race fans are all that are left.

    I’ll finish with this: I don’t want what I could watch Friday night at Hawkeye Downs to rival in power what I’m watching on Sunday. (I’m from Iowa, in case that wasn’t evident.)

  5. Avatar

    What ever Nascar does will be great and the new fans will be loving it!
    Raise the cars up …open the grills

  6. Avatar

    Face it everyone is just mad because Joey Logano won, if NASCAR’s new wonder boy Chase Elloitt had won there would be no crying at all, NASCAR cheated for elliott at Talladega when he went below the line and again at Kansas when they would not bring him down pit road for no radio because they knew he would lose laps,

    • Avatar

      I agree! NASCAR was totally on board to keep Little Clyde in the hunt. Then after the race they said maybe they should have done things differently. Can you imagine for a minute them calling him in, not knowing what they would find? NASCAR is full of shit, they want Clyde Jr. in the finale. No doubt! Joey put a wrench in those plans….

  7. Avatar

    Remove the mirrors. Just the driver and the spotter. It will help get the blocking under control.
    Most local tracks penalize blocking. Why are “the best drivers in the world” allowed to do it?

    • Avatar

      Have to block, it is a by-product of this design.

      Best drivers in the world are less likely to make a stupid block that ends someone’s racing career compared to at a local short track. Not anything against those guys but you race a local short track and get your car destroyed by a stupid block, the money is not there to get a new car turned around quickly if at all.

  8. Avatar

    Put several 1980s race cars in the wind tunnels. These are the numbers you want. NO front spoilers period. 80s rear spoiler, rear spoiler adjustment during pitstops. I quit attending NA$CAR when the first COT came out.

  9. Avatar

    The fact is, is that Logano came into the weekend with two wins this season, not one as the writer incorrectly stated in his “facts”, making this his third win of the season. If you’re going to throw out facts, please make sure they’re accurate.

  10. Avatar

    How about just starting a new racing series that’s not NASCAR?

  11. Avatar

    Nothing will change to improve actual racing until the new TV contract. After well goes dry, maybe someone will alter the business model to add racing to it.

  12. Avatar

    NASCAR should be ashamed of themselves. “professionals” racing sub 600hp cars? What a sad joke. WAY too tall of a spoiler on these, way too much aero grip, not nearly enough horsepower, and tires that last too long. These should be 900+ horsepower, anything less is ridiculous. They should be sliding around after a few laps letting the drivers make the difference in performance, not flat footed following close to each other because the cars are too easy to drive and whoever has 0.001% better aerodynamics is able to pass regardless of the car having a mediocre driver inside of it.

  13. Avatar

    Strange that people could pass earlier in the race but suddenly the last few laps it’s a car package problem!