Atlanta Motor Speedway, February 22, 2019
With the Daytona 500 in the books the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series moves to Atlanta Motor Speedway. The last restrictor plate race produced the normal carnage associated with pack racing. This week NASCAR begins introducing a new competition package designed to tighten competition at all tracks.
Practice speeds were five to eight miles per hour slower than last year. Clint Bowyer(14) ran the fastest time, 30.774 seconds which translates to 180.152 mph. No cars were willing to team up in a group and experiment with any kind of draft. It remains to be seen if that holds true in qualifying as multi-car runs are back after last weeks single-car laps.
Competition Package Changes
The changes NASCAR has instituted will first reduce horsepower. A tapered spacer under the throttle body will limit air intake. The size of the spacer 1.18″ or 0.922″ depending on the size of the track. An 8″ X 61″ spoiler will increase downforce. The radiator pan is 37″ wide tapering to 31″, and the splitter has a 2″ overhang sucking the front of the vehicle closer to the track. Aero ducts will be added after Atlanta to further impact vehicle handling.
How these modifications impact the racing will be one of Sunday’s main story themes. Testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway created more side-by-side racing which fans love.
A total of 37 drivers and cars will make qualifying attempts. At Daytona 42 cars showed up to compete for the 40 starting spots sending 2 drivers home before the race.
Round One of qualifying will lock 13 cars in, 24 cars advance to Round Two where 12 more will lock. The fastest 12 cars advance to Round Three where the pole sitter for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 will be determined.
Clint Bowyer backed up his practice run in Round 1 of Qualifying. His lap of 180.733 mph topped the speed chart. Bowyer was the only driver to exceed 180 mph. Notables not advancing out of the first round included Ryan Blaney(12) and Joey Logano(22). The Team Penske drivers will start Sunday’s race in 26th and 27th respectively. No multi-car drafts existed during the round.
Bowyer again paced the field with another lap over 180 mph. Last weeks front row, William Byron(24) and Alex Bowman(88) failed to advance and will start 17th and 16th. Kevin Harvick(4), last year’s winner at Atlanta, complained of steering problems and could only post the 18th fastest speed. Chase Elliott(9), Brad Keselowski(2), Erik Jones(20), and Paul Menard(21) all failed to advance to the final round.
Aric Almirola(10) captured the pole, only the 2nd of his career, with a speed 181.473 mph which was the fastest of all qualifying sessions. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) qualified 2nd and Bowyer ended up with the 3rd starting spot.
Ford Performance Mustangs start in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th. Again showing the speed of the new for 2019 Blue Oval Pony.
Results for Round 3
|2||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||0.177||180.428|
|9||19||Martin Truex Jr.||0.302||179.697|
* Ford Mustang