Two Aero Packages Down ~Two to Go
As everyone knows, the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a season of change. Competitors this year will be using a variety of new aero packages designed to improve the racing. Bigger spoilers, splitters, radiator pans to create more downforce, plus tapered spacers on the engines to limit horsepower output and slow the cars along with aero ducts to further slow the car are reported to be THE formula to fix what ails Cup racing... well, if not fix it, improve it until the new Gen 7 car, which will solve everything, can hit the series.
By using various combinations of two different size tapered spacers either with or without aero ducts creates three different aero packages. The most restrictive package, has a 0.992” tapered spacer and aero ducts. It will be used on the bigger tracks. A slightly less restrictive package uses the 0.992” spacer but no aero ducts. The least restrictive package uses a larger 1.170” spacer and no aero ducts for the road courses and shorter tracks. Just to keep things interesting NASCAR opened the season using the 2018 restrictor plate package at Daytona. 36 races-four different packages.
Confused? Maybe this will help. Below is the “Handy Dandy Totally Unofficial Official Aero Package Cheat Sheet and Decoder Ring” to help sort it all out. NOTE-you would know it is the “Official Official” Cheat Sheet if it had been “as brought to you by some official sponsor”, but alas it didn’t.
It’s arranged by track and color coded. Just remember Red (B package) is the most restrictive, Yellow (C Package) next and Green (D Package) the least restrictive.
AERO PACKAGE CHEAT SHEET & DECODER RING
Clear as mud? Try keeping it straight without the chart!
So we leave Atlanta-the track with the same aero package that will be used at the season finale Homestead. True, that track surfaces are dramatically different, with the Atlanta surface older than a third of the drivers in the field, but maybe this still gives us a hint of what to expect at the Championship Race.
Next stop Las Vegas and the most restrictive package. This will be the 2019 debut of Package B that we will see on 15 tracks including Talladega, July Daytona, May Charlotte, Indy and six other tracks. We’ll see how the same package that they’ll use at Kentucky works at Talladega.
After that we’ll get or first look at the D package at Phoenix. This includes the larger tapered spacer and no aero ducts and will be the closest to running wide open we’ll see this season. Cup will race this package 14 times this year.
Then we had Daytona, or the A package, which used Restrictor Plates instead on tapered spacers. This was the 2018 configuration and will never be seen again this season, which should make many car owners, drivers and body hangers very happy.
So there you have it. We have two packages down... two more to go. Can we learn anything over the next couple of weeks to give us insight into how the remainder of the season might go? I don’t know. There are lots of other variables besides how much air gets to the engine and how air flows over and around the car that will ultimately determine who wins races and what racing will look like in 2019.
Reactions seemed mixed this week. Some areas looked better than 2018, others not so much. There was a significantly closer margin of victory and more lead changes in the final green flag run. This year we saw three lead changes in the final run with Brad Keselowski taking the lead from Joey Logano and leading the final 33 laps and holding off Martin Truex Jr. to win by .218 seconds. Last year, Kevin Harvick took the lead under caution and held it the final 21 green flag laps, pulling away to a 2.69 second win. That looks promising.
This year, 17 cars finished on the lead lap while last year saw only 13 cars finish on the same lap as the leader. Improvement? Yes. Significant? Hard to tell.
This year Atlanta saw 26 lead changes between 9 cars versus 24 between 8 cars last year. That’s a wash. This race had 6 lead lap runs of greater than 20 laps, with one of those going over 50 laps, two over 40 laps and two over 30 laps. Last year, there was seven runs greater than twenty laps with six of those less than 28 laps and only one run over fifty laps long. Some might say that this aero package created longer lead runs.
On the other end of the spectrum, this year saw 13 of the 26 lead runs were five laps or less with 9 for only one lap. That looks a little racier than 2018’s 9 runs five laps or less with 5 only one lap long. So did this package create better racing? Hard to tell.
Did the drivers like it? I’m sure race winner Brad Keselowski was pretty happy. Other drivers interviewed immediately after climbing out of their cars were less enthusiastic, with comments guarded and measured. Kyle Busch was typical Kyle Busch, who is let’s say nonplussed with the packages. Clint Bowyer was the most positive of those asked what he thought about the package and his remarks started with a laugh.
Take it for what that’s worth.
To me, the most insightful was Martin Truex Jr.’s displeasure with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Truex, who was second and trying to hunt down the leader Brad Keselowski but found the lapped car of Stenhouse between himself and the leader. Truex was upset that Stenhouse wouldn’t pull over to let him pass as Ricky was disturbing the air on Truex’s car and disrupting his progress. Stenhouse countered that that wasn’t the case and when Martin got within 10 car lengths he pulled out of the way and let Martin go. In the end, Truex got to Keselowski in the final laps, but was unable to make the final pass.
I’m sure that made for some lovely scanner chatter.
But it was Truex’s comments after he climbed from the car, when he said that Stenhouse cost him the win explaining that “these cars are so... these cars punch such a big hole, so bad in dirty air he just killed us.”
Words aside, but the fact remains that with Stenhouse in front Truex couldn’t pass a lapped car on his own but once out of the way Truex ran like a scalded dog and almost caught Kez for the win. That’s hardly the glowing recommendations I think NASCAR was hoping for.
Is this tapered space-aero package the fix NASCAR is looking for or are we looking at a swing and a whiff? I don’t know. The only thing I do know is it’s way too early to really know for sure about this package or any of the others.
Will we see packs or parades? Passing or pushing? Promised performance or performance promised with Gen 7? Who knows?
Couple of things I know for sure. This isn’t a new problem-just go to the 19:00 mark and listen to this 1998 discussion on the subject by this group of NASCAR Legends. Sound familiar? Also in it, they mention it was not a new problem then... they’d been discussing it since 1971. Over 45 years of racing and a solution still eludes the sport.
Could this be the year?
Only way to know is let’s line ‘em up and see how it all plays out this Sunday in Las Vegas with the most restrictive B package. Going forward, you have your “Handy Dandy Totally Unofficial Official Aero Package Cheat Sheet and Decoder Ring” to help you sort through it all.
I hope this all works, but it’s a bit of a sad statement when fans have to resort to a color coded Cheat Sheet just to know what cars they are going to watch week in and week out.
have come so far.
Good luck and safe racing!