In detailing the reasons to move to a higher downforce and lower horsepower competition package for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, the league's vice president of competition and racing development officer Steve O'Donnell has been wary of the phrase "pack racing."
"Let me dispel the myth that NASCAR is interested in pack racing everywhere," O'Donnell said last month. "That is not at all what this package is.
The package has been tested at Charlotte and the Atlanta Motor Speedway with drivers readily speaking about having to adapt to the new pack racing discipline coming to downforce tracks next season. In an interview with Goodyear Racing general manager Stu Grant, the tire boss suggested there is nothing to indicate that pack racing will not be part of the product next season.
"I would think so," Grant told Autoweek over the weekend at ISM Raceway at Phoenix. "That's certainly true based on the Atlanta and Charlotte tests. I would expect (pack racing)."
Grant also anticipates Goodyear delivering the same tire combinations as 2018 for the first several intermediate track events next season based on the tests at Atlanta and Charlotte.
"Charlotte was about the same (overall) speed and tire temperatures as this year," Grant said. "The speed in the middle of the corner was about the same as what it was before, entry is slower, and the overall lap time ends up being about the same.
"So, from a tire standpoint, temperatures were about the same. Falloff was a good bit less because you're not working the tires as hard, so the wear was a little bit better. So, we're going to come into Charlotte with the same combination that we had this year.
"The same is true for Atlanta. We saw the same things at Atlanta. Very similar to Charlotte, overall speeds were the same, temperatures, so on and so forth. A little bit less wear and a little bit less fall off at Charlotte. The feedback we got from drivers was that the current tire packages will work just fine. So that's the plan."
O'Donnell has said that he had hoped slowing the cars down would allow Goodyear to look at softer and less durable tires.
But Grant said that's currently not an option with the 2019 rules package due to the extra downforce increasing loading in the corners. To move to a less durable tire would mean an increase of blown tires.
--- Autoweek ---