NASCAR’s 2019 rules package put on its best show yet over the weekend at Kansas Speedway. Wild restarts, a potent draft, four — even at times five wide through the corners. Brad Keselowski won, but that was far from the story.
The NASCAR 2019 Rules Package delivered at Kansas.
In the closing laps under the lights at Kansas, the top five consisted of Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick. That’s a wild statement considering the mile and a half dominance that we’ve seen from Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing. The hierarchy of NASCAR was challenged on Saturday night, which was one of the objectives that executives had in mind when they created this new racing package.
The racing itself was entertaining, especially on fresh tires. Restarts were chaotic — there was a sense of urgency which created aggressive moves to both pass and block. The draft absolutely played a key role in the race, which isn’t something that we had seen to this point.
The field, as a whole, was closer together. The hard data doesn’t lie, either. NASCAR reports a staggering 1,377 green flag passes on the track at Kansas, up from 960 last fall.
Total number of green-flag passes for position *on track* after each lap since restart for the previous 3 Cup Series races from Kansas. 1,377 total passes (according to criteria specified in chart) for the spring 2019 race. Data from NASCAR and SMT. pic.twitter.com/47kx5qFwrk
— A. S. Maness (@ASManess) May 13, 2019
Questions still remain.
Now for my concerns.
After 15 laps, it was just a normal intermediate race up front. Clean air was king throughout the field. Outside of Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott in the first half of the race, once things settled in, drivers seemed to run where they ran. Even Elliott and Harvick were stuck in dirty air by the end of the night with the wicked fast corner speeds.
The top lane by the fence was the groove to own. If you didn’t have that lane on older tires, well, you were going backwards. We saw Alex Bowman stay on the bottom for too long during the penultimate run, which allowed Keselowski to secure the top lane and ride off into the sunset.
While Kansas was easily the best race of 2019, if you remove restarts from the equation, what do you have? You’ve got a fairly normal mile and a half type race. At various stages in the event, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman each established leads of three seconds over second place.
The night conditions coupled with the 50 degree temperatures created tons of grip, which made this race one of the more closely contested in recent memory. My question leaving Kansas is this — what happens when NASCAR returns in the fall, in the daytime?
The results from Kansas can’t overshadow everything else.
While Kansas was a massive win for the sanctioning body, are we supposed to forget about lackluster races at Las Vegas, Texas and California? What about the 750 horsepower package that drew mass criticism after Dover, Martinsville, Richmond and Bristol?
While it was a fun three hours, the fact remains that we can’t go to Kansas every weekend. So far this package has frankly failed on older pavement. Without progressive banking, the next two weeks at Charlotte will be a fascinating test under the lights. Will the racing be as competitive as Kansas was on a surface that is six years older? Will the weather conditions be similar?
We are getting into a portion of the schedule where this 2019 package should shine. Kansas, Kentucky, Pocono and Michigan were each expected to deliver for NASCAR. If those tracks do, it will be interesting to see how the sport tweaks things for the older pavement intermediates that didn’t deliver.
Because if we know one thing to be fact, NASCAR won’t sit still.