NASCAR Drivers Share Mixed First Impressions After Driving 2019 Cup Series Car
Stewart-Haas Racing's Aric Almirola views it as a plus while Joe Gibbs driver Erik Jones thinks it might be a dud for fans.
NASCAR drivers are getting their first taste of the new-for-2019 Cup Series aero package at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week, and as expected, impressions are mixed. The retooled cars, which use aerodynamic body kits similar to those used in the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series All-Star event, are set to offer a different type of racing than what has been seen this season—for better or worse. While some say that this is a positive change, others believe that it will translate to an unattractive package for competitors and fans alike.
Next year’s aero package includes a couple of variations for tracks over one mile in length. The exact package to be utilized at CMS and used in Tuesday’s test includes an 8-inch by 61-inch rear spoiler, a 37-inch-wide radiator pan tapered to 31 inches, a front splitter with 2-inch overhang, aero ducts, and a tapered spacer that limits engine output to approximately 550 horsepower.
Aric Almirola, Daniel Hemric, Erik Jones, and William Byron were the drivers participating in Tuesday's test. While Hemric isn’t yet a Cup Series regular, he is competing for the 2018 championship in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. But next year, he is slated to take over the No. 31 Cup Series ride at Richard Childress Racing, vacated by Ryan Newman.
Hemric likened the feel from next year’s aero changes to a special package utilized in Xfinity Series races at Michigan International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year.
“I think, right now with what we’ve been running all morning, has been very close to that,” Hemric said during media availability between morning and afternoon sessions. “Honestly, from watching the All-Star [Race] as a fan, I thought they looked slow, and I expected to feel that way. I went to go run wide open into Turn 1, and as you dropped down in, you knew you were still going 180 miles per hour. The speed sensation is there with this package. I think they’ve done a good job of the horsepower and the downforce, balancing it out.”
Meanwhile, the 2019 package reminds Jones more of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racing. He thinks extra horsepower and increased downforce, compared to the 2018 All-Star package, will result in cars spreading out.
"As we have time to work on it, it’s probably going to get more spread out, which I know people don’t want to hear, but I think that is what is going to happen,” Jones said. "I think it will look very similar to truck racing. Restarts will be really tight and bunched up, and once the fast guys get sorted out and singled out, you’ll see guys stretch their lead a little bit at times. We’ll see what happens.”
Almirola acknowledged that the 2019 aero package produces higher speeds than those in the All-Star Race.
“It is quite a bit faster than what we had at the All-Star Race,” Almirola said.
Almirola also gave the Mustang Cup racer, which is also new for next season, a thumbs up.
“It’s comfortable to drive. It’s fun. It looks awesome,” Almirola said. “To have the first official competitive laps on the race track has been nice to collect some data.”