Drafting package in play for 2019, not ’18

The drafting package used during the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race weekend continues to be a discussion point for NASCAR competition officials, tracks, teams, manufacturers and engine builders. The conversation now, though, is centered on how to potentially implement elements of it in 2019 at the earliest.

The rules package used at the All-Star Race that included aero ducts, a higher spoiler, plates and an older splitter, will not be used in the Monster Energy Series again in 2018.

“Everyone is aligned on doing what’s best for the fans,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell told NASCAR.com on the ongoing competition discussions. “As we went through that process of discussing (the drafting package) following the All-Star Race, we all realized we have something that could work.”

“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.”

Getting the drafting package in place for additional races in 2018 would have been a Herculean undertaking, and one that could have resulted in a rushed output. Instead, NASCAR will utilize the current rules package – one that has produced competitive racing in 2018 – for the remainder of the season.

“We’re really happy with the racing we have on the track,” O’Donnell said. “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.”

And as good as the racing was when the drafting package was in use, there’s the ability for it to get even better – if the implementation is done properly and not rushed.

The rules package for the All-Star Race borrowed heavily from the package the NASCAR Xfinity Series first used at Indianapolis in 2017, a race which set a record number of leaders and lead changes.

The objective was simple: Promote passing and tight competition. In that regard, the package was a success. Several statistics at the All-Star Race were at or near a six-year high, the most telling being green flag passes for the lead, which reached 38 this year compared to 2017’s zero.

“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.”