NASCAR’s new racing rules package set to debut at Atlanta
By Rick Minter / Andrews McMeel Syndication
After running the Daytona 500 — under rules that likely won’t be used again anytime soon — NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend for the first points-paying race to be run under a radically changed rules package.
The new package, which features less horsepower and more downforce, was used in last year’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to positive reviews from most observers, who felt the racing on that intermediate-length track was closer than under the previous rules.
One difference this year is that engine power will be reduced through the use of a smaller tapered spacer on the intake manifold. The goal there is to reduce horsepower from around 750 to about 550.
Rules will vary from track to track. At Atlanta, the cars won’t have aeroducts that transfer air to the side of the car away from the front tires — a feature that will be seen at several other tracks.
Other changes include a taller rear spoiler, which will now measure 8 by 61 inches. The front splitter will be larger, with a 2-inch overhang, and the radiator pan will be wider, all of which should increase downforce.
The changes take the aero rules in the opposite direction from recent seasons, when specifications were tweaked to decrease downforce.
Martin Truex Jr. said in a team release that even though the new package has been tested, most recently at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, there still are a lot of unknowns.
“This weekend is going to be exciting for the fans and everyone involved,” he said. “We have an idea of what to expect with the new aero package, but no one has really gotten a chance to experience what it’s like with 40 cars on the track.
“Regardless what package we run, Atlanta is still going to be Atlanta. The asphalt is old and worn out, so it’s going to wear out the tires and you aren’t going to be able to hold it wide open the entire run.”
Austin Dillon said in his team’s release that he believes the new rules will make racing on an intermediate track more like what fans are used to on the restrictor-plate tracks at Daytona and Talladega.
“You’re going to have to be really smart at making your moves on the racetrack, because when you make them, you better clear people,” he said. “If you pull out of line at the wrong time, you’re going to lose more than just the spot you tried to gain. You’re going to lose two or three spots. You’re going to have to complete passes and be aggressive when you do.”
He added that the draft, a big factor at Daytona and Talladega, will now come into play on the shorter tracks.
“You have to be very calculated about your moves and learn what the draft is going to be like because this package is different than the package we’ve been running, and the draft works differently, so you’ll have to find different places on the track where you can gain momentum and speed,” he said.
Dillon agreed with Truex that Atlanta’s badly worn asphalt will add an extra element to the race.
“Atlanta Motor Speedway eats tires,” he said. “You’re going to have to be on and off the throttle, keeping up with the track.
“There’s still going to be a lot of driving and working on your car throughout the race to get it better. You’re going to have to change your lane a lot. The person that can stay on the gas the longest is probably going to win.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Kevin Harvick and his No. 1 Ford led 181 laps at Atlanta last year, but a new aero design on the cars could draw the field closer together.Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR