Drivers open-minded about NASCAR rule changes

Image by LaBounty/LAT

Drivers open-minded about NASCAR rule changes


Drivers open-minded about NASCAR rule changes


Kyle Larson got a taste of the 2019 rules package by running it for half a day Wednesday during a Goodyear tire test at Phoenix Raceway, and one of the things he noticed was the grip.

“It just has way more grip,” Larson said. “We ran through some different tire compounds and stuff to get an idea. All of them had a lot of grip so you could carry a ton of throttle. The acceleration obviously wasn’t the same as the ’18 package just because you have the bigger blade and stuff on the back. A lot more drag, so acceleration wasn’t quite as much.”

NASCAR announced the rules package on Tuesday. A 1.17-inch tapered spacer will be in place for tracks shorter than 1.33 miles in length. On tracks that are larger, teams will use a 0.922-inch tapered spacer. Aero ducts, a splitter with overhang in the front, and a larger spoiler were also among the changes announced.

Larson said he is not on the driver’s council, and didn’t have an opinion on the package decision.

“It was pretty crazy how far you could run in the corner and then also how quick you could pick the gas up,” Larson said of the test. “I don’t know what it’s going to do for the racing at a track like that, but I feel like if we go there with a hard tire like kind of what we were testing on, or what it seemed like Goodyear liked… I felt like that would be hard to race. But they still have time to tweak on it and hopefully bring a tire that will match that aero package and hopefully put on a decent race.”

Two of the Team Penske drivers, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, said slower can be better.

“I think there’s a lot of unknowns,” said Logano. “We don’t know how it’s gonna be yet, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity for it to be better as well. I think the halfway test that we’ve kind of had is the All-Star Race, and what we’ve seen in the Xfinity Series so far with a package that’s close to it. Your foot is in the gas pipe a lot more, but at the same time, you’re able to make a lot of moves with the draft and change a lot of different lines.

“The All-Star Race was a lot of fun, but obviously that’s an All-Star Race. So I think we need to have a little asterisk next to it and say it was the All-Star Race, and everyone is racing for all-or-nothing, and have that attitude. But I think at the same time this package, at a lot of racetracks I think it will be better, and at some racetracks it may be similar to where we’re at. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Ryan Blaney. Image by Kinrade/LAT

Said Blaney, “I think it’s good. They adjusted it from the All-Star package. I thought the All-Star package was too slow, so it’s nice they added some horsepower back to the mile-and-a-halfs and then staying the same at the short tracks and road courses, so that’s nice, but we’ll see. I thought the All-Star package had some bright spots in it and I thought they could make some improvements to some things, and I think they did that. I feel like the racing will be better than we even saw it at the All-Star Race, because the teams can have more time with the cars and understand them more, and NASCAR can test them and all sorts of things, so we’ll just see how it goes.

“I think it’s gonna be fine. You don’t bash anything. I’m excited to see what it’s like. If we can get a couple tests here in the off-season, which I’m sure there will be, and then the first race with that package – it doesn’t have the ducts in them – is Atlanta, so we’ll see what comes of it. But I’m all for it. I know we talked about it a lot in the Driver Council deal and the RTA has been part of it, and I feel like we all came to a conclusion and that’s what they went with.  I’m behind it 100 percent, so we’ll see how it does.”

Jimmie Johnson admitted he doesn’t know what next year will look like, also expressing a wait-and-see approach. But Johnson is on the driver’s council as well as a rules meeting council, where he said the drivers were heard.

“I think there’s been a couple of great races that have shown that package puts on a great show, and I think we’d be naive to think that it’s just going to be awesome everywhere,” Johnson said. “But there’s a big attempt being made to improve the quality of racing, and I support making our sport stronger. That’s where I stand on it.

“At the end of the day, they’re still passing out a trophy, and I like trophies. So, we’ll make whatever work.”

Kyle Busch has been against a package where speeds would be slower and the pack closer together, but said it’s all about putting on a better show.

“I think there’s certain race tracks it will bode really well at and it will be a positive,” said Busch. “There’s probably some others where it might not be that way. We’ll have to give it a wait and see mentality, and find out as we go.”