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New Rules, Familiar Sites

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, February 25 2019

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

The Cup Series and its new rules took to the 1.5-mile oval at Atlanta on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Barry Cantrell)

The Day After … Atlanta:

We kinda know how drivers feel about the new rules package that debuted over the weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. And we definitely know how television analysts feel about it. But how about fans?

Those new rules, were designed to do what dozens of other rule changes over the last 15 years were designed to do – give fans a reason to tune in or attend.

The major specifics in the 2019 package included huge blade spoilers on the rear decks, elimination of ride-height rules and the use of power-robbing tapered spacers on the engines.

The hope was that the changes would provide, in general, tighter racing with lots of passing and a return of emphasis team strategy and driver skill.

As can be expected, the new cars got mixed reviews from drivers. The winner, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, seemed to like them as they injected some strategy into the race.

“To get into drafting right on the restart is really critical and making the right lane choices and decisions and swapping lanes at the right time and kind of being able to predict all that is super, super critical, and I think we’ll see that play out over races to come,” he said.

Other drivers were neutral toward the new rules.

“It’s not really a lot different honestly than what I thought old Atlanta was a lot like,” Erik Jones of Joe Gibbs Racing said. “I don’t think there was any more passing, I don’t think there was any less passing. I think it was kind of the same. It’s just different. Just a different way of going about it.”

Some drivers were less than kind.

“These cars punch such a big hole and it’s so bad in dirty air, it completely killed us for 25, 30 laps to the point my front tires were gone once I finally got by him,” Martin Truex Jr. of Joe Gibbs Racing said. And he finished second.

NASCAR’s TV “partners”, of course loved it, adored it, called it a gift from the racing gods. Hey, they’re paid to.

The view from the living room sofa was this of Atlanta: The effect at the front of the field was pretty much the same as it has been for the last couple of decades – the race leader, no matter who it was , was able to quickly compile a large gap over those behind him. Clean air equalled big leads.

That view was shared by some in the driver’s seat.

“Clean air was a big deal,” pole-sitter Aric Almirola of Stewart-Haas said. “Traffic cars make so much downforce and we are all going so fast that it is really hard to make passes until late, late, late in the run.”

Next up is Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Many in the garages said that is where a clearer picture of the new rules will emerge. But then again, they said that about Atlanta.

There were mixed feelings on my sofa about Brad Keselowski passing Mark Donohue as Roger Penske’s No. 1 winner.

Bad Brad’s victory on a weekend where he was feeling so poorly that he could have filled the cockpit with vomit – or worse – made for a good storyline.

And yes, that boy can drive feeling good or horrible.

But some of us surely doubt that he will ever attain the iconic status of Donohue. He was an extraordinary driver who could – and did – compete and win in about every kind of car.

Best known for sporting the Nos. 6 and No. 66, he drove such legendary cars as the Sunoco Porsche 917 Can-Am car, the Penske Offy Lola at Indy, the Penske PC1 Formula 1 car, the AMC Matador in Cup, the Porsche 911 RS in IROC, the Ford GT40 and, the personal favorite here, the No. 6 red, white and blue AMC Javelin in Trans-Am.

He was a driver’s driver and a man’s man and a golden boy who competed during motor racing’s true golden era.

A few years back in an infield motorhome, I told Roger Penske about my admiration of Donohue. The Captain could only nod along, emotion seemingly holding back the words.

Looking Racy – The Chevrolet Camaros of Chip Ganassi Racing. New to the team Kurt Busch finished a super impressive third and ran among the leaders most of the afternoon. Teammate Kyle Larson led a race-best seven times for 142 yards. His big afternoon was spoiled by speeding penalty.

Looking Lost: The Chevrolets of Hendrick Motorsports. The folks at HMS had to feel pretty good at least as they arrived in Atlanta. Speedweeks were kind to them. But at Atlanta, disaster struck. Alex Bowman led the team with a 15th-place finish. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson finished a lap off the pace.

Looking Like A Winner: The New Ford Mustangs. Ford won last year’s Cup championship with Joey Logano at the wheel of the No. 22 Penske car. The Ford Fusions also won the 2018 manufacturers title. On Sunday, Keselowski captured the first non-plate race of the year in the new Mustang. Congrats, Doug Yates.

Yates, president and CEO of Roush Yates Engines, said, “This was a big day for Roush Yates Engines with the new T550 engine package, on a mile and a half track for the first time this year, with the new iconic Ford Mustang body. To finish in victory lane is a testament to all the hard work by the entire Ford organization. We are proud to be part of this historic moment and partner with Ford Performance to deliver the first MENCS win with the new Ford Mustang.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, February 25 2019
One Comment

One Comment »

  • DAVE HOELCHER says:

    In NASCAR’s quest to increase viewership they’ve been all over the place with rules changes over the past decade or two, but I believe they are looking in the wrong place. Being a fan of their sport since the mid sixties, I’ve witnessed it all. They’ve lost sight of what brought the fans in to begin with. The cars, more specifically, the sounds of the cars, the camming at idle, the screaming V8 engines. The beginning of the end was when the previously ‘stock’ cars from Detroit used in this series morphed to cars that originally came as front wheel drive ONLY, 4-door ONLY, originally 4-cylinder cars, what we referred to as poop-boxes. Returning the series to its roots would be my first suggestion. Secondly, they’ve become WAY WAY WAY overly commercialized! We don’t want music! We don’t need any value-added infomercials while cars are on track. We don’t need the image of a AA battery to block our view. We don’t need to hear the history or background of any drivers. Do they even realize how patronizing it is to hear ‘Geico restart zone’, or any of their dozens of prostitutions of products they exchange for advertisers dollars. How much DO the drivers get for shoving the Coke bottle to their lips? We are here for ONE thing, the race. We likely know more about racing than these paid chuckleheads. If we wanted to listen to a comedy show we’d change channels. From the very start, as soon as the cars are started, instead of letting us hear the camming engines, the go to commercials. They have in-car cameras but rarely use them. They have ONE time during a race where they say ‘Crank It Up’, I say crank YOU down – SHUT UP!!! No music. No sound effects. No groovy animated speaker icon telling me when I can listen to unmolested V8 sounds. Just because you CAN ad music, icons, & art, does NOT mean that you SHOULD, some things are better raw, without value-added, over engineered marketing ploys.