NASCAR drivers go to school during test for 2019 package at AMS
Some of NASCAR's top drivers and teams got a taste of the sport's new racing package for 2019 during a Goodyear tire test on Atlanta Motor Speedway's high banks Tuesday.
"This is unlike anything I've experienced over all of my years in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing," 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson said.
As previously announced, NASCAR's 2019 racing package calls for vehicle body aerodynamic changes and a horsepower reducing tapered engine spacer producing an estimated 550 horsepower at tracks like Atlanta Motor Speedway. Johnson, a veteran of the sport who has won five times at Atlanta, took Tuesday's test as an opportunity to learn and get up to speed with the new package.
"With how cool it was this morning, the lower horsepower and the bigger downforce package, I wasn't sure how much we'd lift and if we would lift at all," Johnson said. "Atlanta Motor Speedway's track surface is abrasive and we had assumed that you would have to at some point. It wasn't many laps a run that you had to lift."
Two-time cup series winner Ryan Blaney said the high level of tire wear, an element that Atlanta Motor Speedway's older asphalt has become known for, will make for dynamic racing when the 2019 package debuts at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on February 24.
"I feel like there's going to be some comers and goers when tires fall off. How well you run will be a matter of how well you take care of your tires throughout a run and your car has to handle well," Blaney said. "You're not just flat-out, wide-open around here."
"That's what makes Atlanta cool and that's what I've really enjoyed about it in the past," added Erik Jones, who also tested the 2019 package at Charlotte Motor Speedway one week ago.
Going to school on the new package in a test setting was helpful, but drivers said there are still a lot of unknowns that will only become clear when a full field of 40 cars take the green flag at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
"We feel like we have an idea of the way things will go, but it's still not all that clear yet," Johnson said. "None of us know. We're all speculating."
The Atlanta NASCAR Weekend features Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying on Friday, Feb. 22, the NASCAR XFINITY Series Rinnai 250 and NASCAR Gander Mountain Truck Series 200-mile race doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 23, and culminates with the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, Feb. 24.
Tickets for the 2019 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 can be purchased by contacting Atlanta Motor Speedway at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or by visiting www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.