Nothing remains constant except change itself.
The new Nascar season is just around the corner. That means Daytona, restrictor-plate racing, and a whole lot of uncertainty that is standard every year at the beginning of the season. Why so much uncertainty? Because of change. Nascar is in a perpetual cycle of change, and has been for going on twenty years. Sometimes it’s for the better, others not so much. Here to kick off the new season, are a few notes on this year’s changes.
2019 rules package
The scoop: Two baseline rules packages are set for the 2019 season. The different packages will be tailored to the specific tracks, with a combination of a smaller tapered spacer to reduce engine horsepower to a target goal of 550 (from 750) and aero ducts to foster tighter racing on a majority of speedways measuring longer than 1 mile. The Daytona 500 will run with traditional restrictor-plate rules but that is the last plate race.
What does that mean? It means that historical restrictor-plate data is still viable, but this is the end of the road. It’s a significant factor. It also means that in upcoming races, it’s going to be tight, bunched up racing. This typically leads to wrecks, as well as a heap of complaints from the drivers. I’m actually looking forward to it from a DFS perspective.
What’s new: Ford will use the Mustang model in the Monster Energy Series starting in 2019.
The scoop: Ford’s oldest car and the world’s best-selling sports coupe will be the model of choice in NASCAR’s top series next year and beyond.
This one is huge. It ushers in a time of complete unknown. All of last year’s dominance by the Fords on the mile and a half (and longer) tracks is out the window, at least to start the season. How many races will teams need to get their setups dialed in? How will they perform aerodynamically? This could really flip the series on it’s head.
And now, on to the driver changes….
Daniel Suarez is now in the SHR #41. If not for the Mustang change, this would be an upgrade. I still think his success rate will increase. It’s currently the best team in Nascar, and simply put, they dominate races as a team.
Kurt Busch (the former driver of the aforementioned #41) has moved on to join Chip Ganassi’s stable of drivers, replacing Jamie McMurray in the #1 Chevy. Ganassi runs a great team, his drivers always have the some of the best equipment, and I expect to see Kurt running up front with this team, albeit with tempered expectations compared to his time with SHR.
Martin Truex Jr. is now driving the Joe Gibbs Racing #19, formerly piloted by Suarez. This change is probably less significant than many others on this list. Gibbs was already associated with Truex’ former team, and on top of that, it’s a Toyota to Toyota swap AND Truex’ crew chief came along with him. This is more of a sidestep than a change.
Ryan Newman is the new driver of the Roush-Fenway #6 Ford. This team has been a disaster for a few years now, but Newman is a veteran driver, and I think having a full time driver (last year the races were split between several drivers) will significantly improve the team’s chances of success. Newman is solid, but he was taking a back seat to Richard Childress’ grandsons during his time with RCR. Everyone knew it, and it was a matter of time before he moved on. I like this change for Ryan.
Daniel Hemric, formerly of the Xfinity series, is now piloting the RCR #8 Chevy. It’s a new team, replacing Newman’s former team. He is incredibly talented, and enjoyed great success at the lower level. He’ll definitely compete for rookie of the year. Despite all of that, there’s still a learning curve when moving up to the Monster Energy Series.
Matt DiBenedetto is now driving the Leavine family #95 Toyota. This is significant because the team is backed/supported by Joe Gibbs Racing. The team switched manufacturers during the offseason which lead to the Gibbs support situation. DiBenedetto is talented, and has thus far been in inferior equipment most of his career at the Monster Energy level. I expect him to be viable in DFS this year.
Ryan Preece will be driving the Daugherty #47 Chevy. He’s another Xfinity driver stepping up. He’s going to be driving for a low end team, and his learning curve should be steep.
Corey Lajoie is the new driver of the GoFas #32 Ford. As with Preece, this is a lesser team that many times last season unloaded inferior, older cars at the track. It remains to be seen if they’ll be any more competitive this year, but as DiBenedetto’s replacement, I see this team going in the wrong direction.
Matt Tifft is the new driver of the Front Row #36 Ford. It’s a Ford, it’s a somewhat decent team, and he was incredibly successful at the Xfinity level. I believe he will at least put up a fight for rookie of the year. Tempered expectations overall is recommended though.
Tanner Berryhill, who was a part-time driver last season, has stepped up to a full time schedule in the Obaika #97 Toyota. Berryhill is in that same group of drivers with guys such as LaJoie, and is driving for a lesser team. He showed flashes of making the races in even lesser equipment this year, so there’s hope.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps in getting everyone up to speed for the upcoming season. I’ll do my best to keep tracking news as Daytona nears.Random FTA articles