NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell said the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 was a “fairly entertaining race” that left the sanctioning body satisfied.
Sunday was the first race with the new rules package, albeit without the aero ducts. O’Donnell, the executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said while the expectation was the package would show itself better during the West Coast swing, it was encouraging to see drivers able to drive toward the leader and make a pass under long green flag runs.
“You can always look to improve,” O’Donnell said. “The race just finished so we got to go back and look at a lot of the metrics and see what we can improve upon, but I think all in all we wanted to come here and have a decent race for the fans and get to the west coast, and I think that’s what we did. The storyline again was about the battle at the end of the race.”
Brad Keselowski passed Team Penske teammate Joey Logano for the race lead. With a strong run off Turn 2, Keselowski gave the bumper to Logano before moving to the inside for position and leading the final 33 laps.
Asked if there were any shortcomings of the package, O’Donnell said none came to mind.
“Thought we saw a pretty entertaining race with a good battle for the lead there at the end that wasn’t precipitated by a late caution,” he said. “So, that’s ultimately what you want.”
NASCAR released a few statistics Sunday night comparing the 2019 race to those held from 2015-18:
“Traffic is really bad aero-wise,” Kyle Busch said of the package. “You get behind somebody, and they take your air away, and you’re junk. You’re going to go some of these tighter places that have less of a groove, here you had a white line all the way to the wall and it was still hard to pass. You can make runs on people and have somebody mess up on a corner exit and get a good run. If you got a good run, you could by him on the straightaway or something like that.”
Erik Jones said the race felt the same to him as any other at Atlanta.
“I don’t think there was any more passing, I don’t think there was any less passing,” said Jones. “I think it was kind of the same. It’s just different. Just a different way of going about it.”
Kyle Larson led a race-high 142 laps but fell deep into the field when he was called for speeding on Lap 224. Once back there, Larson realized that dirty air was “much worse” than he’d thought.
Aric Almirola, who started from the pole, also fell into the field from a speeding penalty. He too said being in clean air was a big deal.
NASCAR Cup Series teams will run the full ’19 rules package next weekend in Las Vegas.