Five important takeaways from NASCAR's Las Vegas test

This week’s two-day test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway certainly showed this Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season will be unlike any other.

Five important takeaways from NASCAR's Las Vegas test
Nascar test
Nascar test
Nascar test
Nascar test
Nascar test
Nascar test
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports
 Kyle Busch
Garage Area
Clint Bowyer
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske
Darrell Wallace Jr.
Nascar Test
Kurt Bush

Testing in NASCAR always comes with a caveat – there is no technical inspection and teams are free to push their respective car’s limits as little or as much as they want.

Yet over two days of testing with NASCAR’s new aerodynamic rules still provided a much better look and some helpful understanding prior to the rules’ first use in the season’s second race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Here are five takeaways from two days in Las Vegas:

The new aero rules remain polarizing

No surprise here. Ever since a version of the package first was put in use in last season’s NASCAR All-Star Race, there has been a classic battle of traditionalists vs. what’s best for the sport in general. This is racing after all and it’s hard for many to get past the notion that the guy with the best and fastest car should be able to win. And drivers who have found success in that fashion in their careers (for example Kyle Busch) certainly don’t want to see their advantage go away. Yet, watching leaders pull away from the field and knocking competitors off the lead lap one by one isn’t exactly thrilling entertainment to the TV viewer or in the grandstands. The field remaining closer together makes for a better visual product while also providing more opportunities for drivers who make their cars better during a race to advance. Even in the all-star race, which featured a much tighter field and plenty more passing, the guy who won the most races last season – Kevin Harvick – still won the event.

The “eye test” is important

As mentioned above, in the age where far more fans watch what transpires in any sport through what is seen on TV or digital platforms than in person, how the product is visually interpreted plays an important role in how its success or entertainment value is assessed. Again, “purists” may not like that, but only the driver (and his fans) who is winning by 15 seconds over the field is going to think that’s great racing. It may be racing’s goal, but not what is going to lend sponsors to flock to the sport with advertising dollars. One thing was clear in the Las Vegas test – the field will remain closer together and the leader cannot drive away from the rest of the field in a way where no one can ever get close to him.

It’s tough to pass the leader

Well, duh. First of all, the leader is the leader for a reason. He didn’t get there by accident. Faster cars are still faster cars. Anyone who thought the implementation of this aero package was going to mean the race lead was going to swap 30 or more times like in some previous Talladega events simply has not been paying attention to what NASCAR has been attempting to do. Same for those who claim this package is “pack racing.” It is in no way similar to how cars ran at Talladega in 2000 with the wicker bill on the roof. (Fans hate that, except when you remind them Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s final race win came in that event and then it was the “greatest race ever.” Imagine that.)

Drivers are going to use more skills not less

There are several drivers – Kyle Busch among them again – who sincerely believe their “talent” that has brought them success in their driving career won’t be as impactful in this new package. That may be true to some degree but it also opens the door for even more driver input. But listen to what else Busch said this week: Races will be “more of a mental game, a lot more of a chess match, thinking how you make moves, how daring you’ll be.” I’m sorry, is that not also what we view as a driver’s skill? I certainly have. Making the decision to put your car in a certain place on the track and betting the outcome will be a good one for you seems to me to be a very important part of being a successful driver. Like any rules package that has ever been used in any motorsports, there will be drivers who excel at it and some who fail. Current drivers are simply worried what has proved successful in the past may not work in the future. And you can’t blame them.

Teams can still make their cars better or worse

Seven-time Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson, who is beginning the new season with just the second crew chief of his career, was adamant that teams can still make changes to their cars that improve their performance. And they can also send them in the wrong direction. During the first three drafting sessions, Johnson ran consistently near the front of the field. On the fourth on Friday morning, Johnson found himself back in the field. “We won’t do that again,” he joked afterwards. The biggest challenge for teams seems to be a common one – do you set-up for short run speed or long-run speed? That choice may become much more important with the new aero rules. Combined with the stage racing already in place, strategy decisions could make or break a driver’s race – and season – this year.

Read Also:

shares
comments
Jeff Gordon leads impressive group into NASCAR Hall of Fame

Previous article

Jeff Gordon leads impressive group into NASCAR Hall of Fame

Next article

NASCAR will disqualify race winners with major rule violations

NASCAR will disqualify race winners with major rule violations
Load comments
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR Cup
Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021