The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, with Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) serving as the capstone of a triple-header weekend.
This is the first race on an intermediate track in 2019, and Monster Energy Series cars will use tapered spacers to reduce horsepower, but Atlanta won’t utilize aero ducts to transfer air to the side of the car away from the front tires like many other 1.5-mile tracks will this year.
We explain that, plus much more, below to get you ready for Atlanta weekend.
RELATED: Full weekend schedule
Know the rules
NASCAR officials announced in October two baseline rules packages for the 2019 Monster Energy Series season, making a move to bolster competition with enhanced aerodynamic and engine configurations.
The different packages are tailored to the specific tracks on the Monster Energy Series circuit, 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.
Although both features — the tapered spacer and the aero ducts — will be in place for 17 of 36 races, five other races will be run with just the tapered spacer and not the aero ducts. Atlanta is one of the five that will not use the ducts.
What about the rest?
Other than Atlanta, Monster Energy Series races at Pocono (both of them), Darlington and the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway will also deploy tapered spacers, but no aero ducts.
The full-blown package that includes both tapered spacers and aero ducts will debut next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where teams tested for two days in January.
WATCH: Las Vegas drafting practice
All about that base-line
Beyond the tapered spacers and ducts, the baseline aero elements of the 2019 rules package are a taller 8-inch by 61-inch rear spoiler, a larger front splitter with a 2-inch overhang, and a wider radiator pan that measures 37 inches wide in the front tapering to 31 inches at the rear. Those base changes will be in place at every race next season with the intent of adding downforce to stabilize handling, a break from a trend of downforce reduction from 2015-18.
“For us, it’s really a focus on getting back to a true focus on the drivers and what NASCAR is all about — close side-by-side racing and trying to deliver more of that,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said when the rules were announced last year.
Atlanta is known for its worn, weathered surface, sweeping turns and fast speeds. The combination yields high tire fall-off during a run, which lends itself to tire conservation and multiple pit strategies. With a 500-mile racing looming, teams will have 12 sets of tires at their disposal.
As for the tires themselves, Monster Energy Series teams — along with the NASCAR Xfinity Series — will run a left-side tire that hasn’t been used before. It features a construction update that will align Atlanta with what is run at other speedways, according to Goodyear. The right-side tire is a multi-zone tread, which Cup teams have used at Atlanta since 2016. This is the only track, though, where Cup teams will run either of those tires in 2019.
“Two things are sure about Atlanta Motor Speedway,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “First, it is an extremely worn track surface which is very hard on tires. And second, the racing there has been consistently entertaining.”