Steve O’Donnell once again broached the subject of the new, much-talked-about NASCAR Cup Series rules package following a Sunday afternoon race — this time right after the Pennzoil 400-miler in Las Vegas.
The NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer said that what he saw in the race was “directionally better,” but as a race fan first, O’Donnell is still not satisfied.
The Las Vegas race was the debut of the full 2019 package, complete with the front aero ducts.
“I would say if you looked at the first stage then the last two, you saw almost two different races,” said O’Donnell. “What we said right from the beginning was we wanted to see the best cars still win. We wanted the ability … if you look up in Turn 2 or Turn 3 during a run, you want to see the leader and the ability for second or third to be in the frame with the ability to pass.
“We saw that today. You certainly saw that in the last stage — a 100-lap green flag run with no cautions, top four within 2.5 seconds.”
There were no cautions Sunday afternoon aside from the stage breaks. Statistics released after the race revealed there was 47 green flag passes for the lead (at all points on the track) and 3,345 total green flag passes.
Both are the most ever for a Las Vegas race.
Additional statistics can be seen here:
“You never forecast a caution-free race other than the stages, but that’s what you had,” O’Donnell continued. “You had cars sticking together for a longer period on restart, and then, what we really wanted on an intermediate track was, if you had a long green flag run, the ability to make a pass all during that stretch — what you saw in Stage 1 versus Stages 2 and 3.
“It was good to see guys come up through the pack and make passes for the lead, but there’s still work to do.
“It’s early. Three races, three different winners. We’ll take this one and head to Phoenix.”
O’Donnell said ultimately NASCAR will need to analyze a whole season’s worth of racing. However, just three weeks in, he does feel there has been an improvement over where the series was last year.
On what more he needs to see to be satisfied, O’Donnell said it’s not really up to him.
“It’s the fans,” he said. “You want higher ratings, and you want more butts in seats ultimately. You want rivalries out there and drivers getting after it, and I think what happens in that situation is you have more passes for the lead, and cars closer together.
“We’re on the march to do all of that. I think we saw some of that today, but we can and will continue to improve.”