By most accounts, Atlanta provided a quality viewer experience on Sunday. There were dominant race cars, but also some closer racing, and a tight finish where both race winner Brad Keselowski and runner-up Martin Truex Jr. had a chance.
But the big question on everyone’s mind is: Did the new Nascar rules package work as intended?
The first impression seems to be disjointed, depending on who you ask. But overwhelmingly, everyone agrees that Atlanta, as expected, didn’t provide a “true” test of the package.
The new high downforce, reduced horsepower rules package was designed to eliminate the spread-out, track position races that have developed at intermediate tracks over the last few years. And while Atlanta fits the definition of intermediate at 1.5 miles, the track surface is the most worn in Nascar, having gone over 20 years since a repave (1997).
Due to the worn-out surface, tire wear was the main issue, over the horsepower and downforce changes, as tires would fall off during a run, requiring drivers to get off the gas in the corner. This brought driver skill and tire conservation heavily into play, and didn’t allow the cars to stay bunched up as the package is expected to show next week in Las Vegas.
But while the stats show similar gaps and passing to last year’s race, there were definitely those who thought this was a good first run for the package – and not all of those opinions lived within the Nascar payroll.
“I have to give NASCAR a real good grade on the racing today because you could race, you could come up, you could fall back,” Roger Penske said. “Some people obviously maybe didn’t like that maybe you couldn’t pass, but I felt overall it made a big difference.”
While that seemed to be true at times, it was also true that cars like Kyle Larson once stuck in the back due to a penalty were never able to get back to the front.
Maybe most encouraging was the reaction from some of the “second-tier” teams, such as Parker Klingerman.
So I know you’re all desperately wondering what the new package was like for the 30th place driver… We were vastly more competitive then the last 1.5mile we did as a team at Texas. And I passed @JimmieJohnson at one point. I know he was struggling but slight personal victory 🤣
— Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman) February 25, 2019
This is positive news it bears out in the upcoming races, from a competitive and cost-cutting perspective – both issues Nascar is hoping to address. And I didn’t hate the Jimmie Johnson jab, either.
No surprise, but Vegas will be the first true test. But with Atlanta in the books, at the very least, we’re still optimistic about these rule changes.