The White Zone: This new package has delivered more of the same

On Oct. 2, 2018, NASCAR announced the aerodynamic package for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. It was a package that, in the words of NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell, was “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.”

From the tire test at Auto Club Speedway in January and the organizational test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in February, the package looked promising.

After five races and four with the new package (including two with the full package), it’s been more of the same.

The racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway was what I expect from Atlanta. The racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was what I expect from Las Vegas. So on for ISM Raceway and Fontana.

The restarts and the first five laps after are dicier this season. The leader, however, still has an exponential advantage in clean air. While it’s much easier to draft with someone, tire wear makes it a Herculean task to pass — especially five or more laps after a restart — thanks to the increase in dirty air.

Furthermore, the increased downforce and lower speeds have led to more on-throttle time, which glues the cars to the ground. We’ve seen cleaner races (in terms of the amount of cautions for wrecks). Other than Atlanta, where the tire management played a greater role, it’s easier for the race leader to pull away from the field. And even at Atlanta, there were times when the leader just drove a few seconds ahead of second.

It’s just been more of the same.

It’s hard not to feel let down, given the hype built up around this package over the offseason, particularly by NASCAR.

“We want cars close together, we don’t want people falling off and going laps down, we don’t want people checking out,” NASCAR Vice President of Development and Innovation John Probst said during the Las Vegas test.

“I think the rule package was put in place because we want to have the most competitive racing we can,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November. “We believe the 2019 rules package is just exactly that.

These quotes, along with the aforementioned quote from O’Donnell at the top of the article, indicate that the big wigs at NASCAR expected closer, side-by-side, more competitive racing.

This package, so far, has been more of the same.

Maybe I could be wrong in a few weeks or a few months. Maybe by then, NASCAR will have tweaked the package to prevent a lost season. And maybe then, I’ll keep to the promise I made a few months back and personally tell Phelps that I was wrong.

SEE ALSO: The White Zone: The light at tunnel’s end is growing dimmer

Furthermore, the increase in TV ratings in four of five races this season has quelled my fears — for now — that the sport is in trouble if this package fails.

I’m not ready to say this package is a failure. For now, however, it’s just been more of the same.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth.

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My name is Tucker White. I'm currently majoring in journalism at the University of Tennessee. I started getting into NASCAR around 1998 and started following the sport full-time in 2001. I live and breathe everything related to NASCAR. I also have a burning passion for all things auto racing. I've been following Formula 1 since 2011 and am slowing getting into IndyCar. I do my best to keep up with the World Endurance Championship. But at the end of the day, NASCAR is my primary beat. Being both a native of Knoxville, Tennessee and a student at UT, I'm naturally a die-hard Tennessee Volunteers fan. Especially when it comes to Tennessee Volunteers football. While I'll never stop being one, it can be the most heart-wrenching thing ever. Since 2005, this team has delivered more than its fair share of heartbreaking moments and inhuman frustration. I've stuck with the Vols from the best of times - 1998 National Champions - to the worst of times - 2005 to present - because I know that it'll make it all so worth it when the mighty Vols finally return to the top of the college football landscape. In the last few years, I started to really get into baseball. This past season, I decided to pledge my sporting allegiance to the Atlanta Braves. It didn't turn out too well as they finished 67-95 and finished fourth in the NL East. I do see great potential with the young roster and they might be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.

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