On Thursday, NASCAR revealed that other than the previously scheduled races for them to use the restrictor plate package out for the 2018 season that they won’t use it anywhere else this year. Previously, the NASCAR XFINITY Series tested this package out in their races at Indy last year and races this month in Pocono and Michigan. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series used it in the All-Star race last month in Charlotte.
The common consensus was that the fans loved to see the cars running closer together. NASCAR had even come out and said that there’s was talks to see this package more in the Cup Series, potentially in up to three races this season. But, after today’s announcement, the decision has been made that other than July’s race in Daytona, the fall Talladega race and the XFINITY Series race at Indy in September, that no other track in 2018 will see this package used.
“We had a lot of detailed conversations, but in the end, we all felt like the best thing to do was to put some additional effort into some potential tweaks and focus on 2019 versus a race or two this season,” said NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell. “We’re really happy with the racing we have on the track. We believe that the competition is closer than ever right now. Improving upon that is something that we always work to do, but that takes time. It takes a lot of collaboration in the industry.”
Some of the drivers have met this package with resistance. Brad Keselowski for one was staunchly against it. Others agreed with him. But, most of the fan base wants to see more of it. I mean, how could they not. In the all-star race last year, there were a combined zero passes for the lead. ZERO. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
After seeing a great race at Indy last year and another good one in Michigan this year on the XFINITY level, why not put this package back out there again in 2018? NASCAR says it’s because they don’t want to rush it and want to take a good hard look at this package and possibly bring it back to more races in 2019.
“This goes back to our desire to take a look at something, which we had planned on for 2019,” O’Donnell said. “Through the cooperation of the industry, we were able to get a preview of the drafting package at the All-Star Race, and we were pleased with the results. We did a thorough debrief with the industry and discussed the possibility of pursuing additional events in 2018. Ultimately, we decided that effort was better spent focusing on a 2019 implementation.”
Competition officials currently are considering an engine package that includes the use of a tapered spacer instead of a plate.
Track type is an important consideration, too — what works at 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway may not provide similar results at a different track type. “One of the clear takeaways is that this is not something you would want to implement at every race track,” O’Donnell said. “There are certain race tracks we want to potentially target. Finding the optimal horsepower-to-downforce ratio will be a key focal point to continue to improve the race package.
“We’ll continue to focus on that and make sure what you saw at the All-Star Race can be improved upon. That’ll be the key for us.”