Michael McDowell doesn’t want to see anyone jumping to conclusions about the new rules package based off its first weekend at Atlanta.
The 1.5-miler might be the type of track the package is suited for, but Atlanta is also unique. The surface is abrasive, tires wear out quickly, and handling is always a significant variable. So with that said, McDowell says an opinion shouldn’t be based off the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
“I think it’s going to be a great race, and there’s going to be exciting restarts, and it’s going to be fun, but it’s Atlanta too,” the Front Row Motorsports driver said. “The tires wear out; cars are already sliding around, so I don’t think it’s a direct indication of this is what the package is going to be for the rest of the year.
“And not only that, it’s the team’s first weekend with it. So, teams are going to do what the teams do and make it better, and that will change the dynamic of the races.”
McDowell wasn’t alone in preaching patience. Chase Elliott also pointed out after qualifying that Atlanta is not like the other mile-and-a-half racetracks the series will visit.
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson said patience will be key, although he acknowledges it’s hard for folks in the industry — and fans — to have any. Johnson called Atlanta, as well as Fontana where the NASCAR Cup Series heads in three weeks, “challenging” for the rules package.
“When you have a lot of tire falloff and the lower horsepower, I think that will just be tougher and more difficult to race and to get things sorted out,” Johnson said. “I think when we go to a track like Las Vegas, it’s going to put on a heck of a show. Just in the test session with 13 cars, I was four-wide multiple times in those little small races that they had. So, I think we’ll have a good flavor of things here in the first five races.
“We’ll go to Phoenix and have last year’s package back in a sense with having full power. So, I think these first five weeks will give a good indication of things.”
“You have to give it time,” said reigning series champion Joey Logano. “We’re all going to have our initial reaction after Atlanta. … When we went to the low-downforce races, that was awesome. Everyone said it was the greatest ever, greatest racing. Then as we worked on the cars and stuff, it kind of went back to what we had. I still don’t think it was bad, but we were doing something different just to try it.
“We’ll see. What you see at Vegas [race] one and what you see at Vegas [race] two will be two completely different things. You give these teams times to really develop their cars, everything will be different.”
Just as it’s needed in a 500-mile race such as Sunday, it’s going to be all about patience with the new rules package.
“Yeah, don’t use Atlanta as the benchmark of what it’s going to be like in Vegas or even California where it’s super wide and super-fast,” continued McDowell. “I think it’s going to be fairly unique these first five weeks.”