2019 rules; a look to the future

On Tuesday NASCAR reviled their rules package for the upcoming season with a variety of changes that has everyone speculating. We can continue to debate the cost-benefit of these alterations, but regardless of anyone’s opinion it’s happening. It can be frustrating to see the majority focused on the specific details that are better left to the engineers.

As Steve O’Donnell has stated “We have the greatest engineers in all of sports”, I’m not sure how you measure that, but I’ll believe it.

If the product provided on track is better does it matter that we’ve changed the tapered spacer, spoiler, and front end aero?

Improving the actual racing on track is a priority, but there is a lot more to this new package than just the 2019 season. NASCAR must continue to make decisions for the long term health of the sport. There are some ear raising statements that NASCAR has made in recent weeks that have not gotten the attention they ought to.

“The most collaborative effort we’ve had across all the industry stakeholders” – Executive VP and Chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell. This should make everyone optimistic that it won’t be the COT debacle all over again, which NASCAR admitted failed in part due to a lack of inclusion throughout the industry.

A big part of these new conversations included old and possibly new manufactures.

“We have been in talks with other manufacturers.” “We’re not looking for a manufacture to come in for 2-3 years as a marketing program… We’re courting them for a long-term” – Former NASCAR president Brent Dewar.

This is a huge aspect to the car design that is not simply about the 2019 season, this is about heading in a direction that NASCAR sees itself in the future. Look at the success teams can have when new manufacturers bring money into the sport, Evernham and Dodge, or Waltrip and Toyota all saw strides towards success before their own demise not of the manufacturers doing.

More recently we can look at the success of Joe Gibbs and the depth of Toyotas involvement with their TRD program that may be the model of OEM’s moving forward.

“So a lot of thought went into this that this isn’t just a 2019 rules package, it’s something that we believe really sets us up for the future — not only for our current partners, but growing the sport, which hopefully leads to more healthy ownership as well where we can bring some new OEMs in.” – Odonnell again explains that the current changes, and those for a Gen. 7 car, could allow for healthier ownership.

A process that will take a lot more discussion in regards to the financial structure of the sport, but this is a step in that direction.

Currently the top two teams from each manufacturer make up the best 18 cars on track almost every week. These are the only drivers that have a reasonable chance to compete for a win. Imagine if the cost of entry was lower, and Dodge or Nissan felt it was worth the investment to enter the sport.

Within a decade they could find success such as Toyota has, and field another six cars each. That’s at least 30 competitive cars.

If Childress or JTG improved their programs, and Toyota expands to a second manufacturer team we could see almost an entire field of 40 cars with a chance to win.

These rules are not a silver bullet, but they are a step in the right direction to solve the big “NASCAR problem”. Currently the jury seems to be out on what we will see next season, but it deserves a fair trial.

I would predict some improvement in the racing, but not significantly with the exception of newly repaved tracks such as Kentucky which should be a lot better. I wouldn’t expect to see “pack” racing at any 1.5 mile tracks, possibly a more “pack” style at California and Michigan, but still nothing like the superspeedways which I would predict will all return to restrictor plates for 2020.

I also think you will see the same overall outcome of the season with only a few first time or unexpected winners and the big money teams still dominating the sport.

Thomas Latzkowski
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