Facts and Fantasies about the New Package
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and as always, a warm welcome also to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR on this sunny but freezing cold day in the North Georgia hills. Looking for 22 degrees tonight. There go my beautiful camellias that are in full bloom! It’s Tuesday afternoon as I belly up to the keyboard, the morning having been eaten up by other duties and copious amounts of coffee.
Three down… thirty-three to go! Make that 3 down with a different “package” for each track. Phoenix, masquerading as ISM will show us still another “Package”, different from the other three. First off, I detest the word “Package.” It’s a set-up, pure and simple. Everybody and his brother has attempted to explain the different set-ups we’ll see through the year. I’ll simplify… there are only four and one was exclusive to Daytona and will never return… unless of course, someone at NASCAR has a change of mind or heart.
Gone is the “restrictor plate” and in its place we welcome (?) the “tapered spacer”, which of course is just a fatter or deeper restrictor plate, but that term was deemed unpopular by the committee in charge of NASCAR-speak. They really do have folks that get paid to figure out which words we like and which we consider a turn-off. What they don’t “get” is that we don’t mind the words “restrictor plate.” They are perfectly respectable words in their own right. It’s the reality, the plate itself and what it accomplishes that we don’t like.
At Las Vegas we saw the Big Kahuna, the full-on set-up that was going to cure all that ails NASCAR and make racing closer and better than ever. What we saw looked very much like what we saw at Las Vegas last year without spacers, air ducts or huge spoilers. It looked in fact, very much like racing looks at Atlanta, Michigan and Fontana… with cars 3 and 4 wide at the restarts, then separating into a broken string with seconds between each one. I’ve been told that it took longer for the pack to break up after a restart, but I don’t recall that being the specific goal of the new set-ups. Better and closer racing is what I’ve heard and read. Oh well, maybe at Phoenix, which will have the closest thing to being unrestricted. Tapered spacers will be larger, allowing 750 HP with no aero-ducts.
I have a very easy-to-understand chart posted right at the bottom of my Race Info Center. It covers every race of the 2019 season. If you have questions or just want to consult it, visit that page as often as you like. I always try to be helpful to the race fans.
Now let’s backtrack to Las Vegas for a bit. The first two races, trucks and Xfinity, turned out to be love-fests for Kyle Busch. He was simply the best car on the track both days. If anyone mentions how close he is to Richard Petty’s 200 CUP wins, I might turn violent. He’s 149 short of that mark and will have to stick around for a while to even get close.
But this isn’t about Kyle, so let’s move right along to Cup Qualifying. Were you entertained? Are you still laughing? This has been tried before, a few years back and NASCAR quickly discovered that single car runs should be the order of the day when drafting comes into play. Drafting should never, ever be a part of qualifying. If we're going to run restrictive devices, no matter what we call them, then the tracks running this set-up should run single qualifying laps just as the giant tracks do.
From my seat in the living room, I think there are a lot of bugs to be ironed out before we even attempt decisions on the efficacy or lack thereof of the new rules and equipment. How is it working from the teams’ perspective? According to a very informative article that centers mostly on quotes from Kevin Harvick, it’s extremely expensive and requires a large number of cars in order to compete in this early part of the schedule. That makes one wonder how the low-budget teams are even able to compete. Still, that breakdown will enlighten a lot of readers to what’s actually involved in what appears on the surface to be a “simple” change. Nothing in racing is simple, nor is it cheap!
We all hoped, after the activities of last August and the change at the top level of our sport, that things might get better. We still hope that, but instead of action, we see inaction in far too many places. I understand the “contracts” in place, but also understand that contracts are made to be broken on occasion, and the lion’s share of the tracks belong to the incestuous sister of NASCAR, ISC. Those track contracts run through next near, but it’s not too early to make up new schedules and let both the fans and the track owners know what changes we will be seeing. Being honest and forthright with the fans will pay big dividends in the end. Of course, like everyone else, I have suggestions, so I’ll just get them off my chest here and put them in writing. This is where our assigned reader comes in. Please pass these thoughts up the chain of command. The fans will be more than happy if you do. Remember, “Fan” is just a shortened version of fanatic! It would behoove you to cultivate and inform the few remaining that fit that category.
The needed “fix” seems fairly simple to me. Lose 1.5-mile tracks! A lot of them! Keep Charlotte; only because it has history. Keep Atlanta, but take it back to the "Perfect Oval", two half-mile turns connected by two 1/4-mile straights! Those two tracks were never intended to be alike. Every other 1.5-miler can be dispensed with and/or replaced by a short track or a road course. That doesn’t have to be as expensive as it sounds. Look at the “Legends” tracks at both Charlotte and Atlanta. Most any track on the circuit can easily be converted to a short track. If that possibility isn’t under consideration, it surely should be.
Likewise, there are many tracks that already have viable road courses within the confines of their oval tracks. We saw the warm reception given to the Charlotte Roval last year. I can’t for the life of me understand why others aren’t already on the schedule with that change accomplished. Stop TALKING about more short tracks and road courses. DO IT! By the time you finally get around to fixing anything at all, there will likely be no fans in the stands and the ratings will be behind decimal points.
One last thought. Ease up on the control of every last detail. Give the crew chiefs back their jobs. End the demand for specific springs, shocks and such. Let the teams learn for themselves. Chances are, in a short time they’ll come to agree with the original set-up, but give them the freedom to change and see what happens. I have never figured out why no one at NASCAR can see that if you are racing identical cars on identical tracks, the outcomes will also be identical.
That will do it for today, so let’s listen now to some Classic Country Music while waiting for the cars to roll out at Phoenix. I found something different for everyone this week. This is the Story of the Louisiana Hayride, a long-time radio show from my childhood. It’s narrated by Hank Williams Jr. and you’ll see lots and lots of old friends now gone from us. It’s a super trip down Memory Lane. I do hope you enjoy it!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!