In 2019 NASCAR made a change to stock car racing at the highest level, they took the engines from 800 Hp down to 550 Hp for select tracks on the schedule. They also raised the splitter from 2 inches to 8 inches at tracks where they run with 550 Hp. When it was first introduced NASCAR said that it would encourage closer, side by side racing, which in turn would make it more exciting. This was far from the case, what NASCAR did not anticipate was how heavily aero dependent that the cars would become and how the racing was not in fact better, it got much worse. I do not entirely hate the package but as we look back on what is by far the worst package NASCAR has ever used, there are many more cons than pros.
The first huge drawback the package had was that the drivers were not too fond of the way the cars drove. The high horsepower meant that at most tracks where the package is used, the cars can be held at full throttle with very little time lifting or braking, which heavily reduces the skill gap in learning the tracks. Another thing about the cars that drivers and people hate is that the cars have so much aero holding them down that they can hardly spin out without a heavy hit. This was on full display last week when we watched the entire Coke 600 with 0 spin outs, 600 miles, and not a single driver lost their car. James Davidson, a well known backmarker, held his car from spinning when it was almost entirely sideways after Quin Houff gave him a bumper shot in an attempt to pass late in the race. This should not be the case, yes these guys are the best stock car drivers in the world, but they were also the best in the world back in the early 2000s and they lost their cars all the time. Those cars were pushing 900 Hp and very little downforce in the cars, they had to fight against the car hard to keep it from spinning on its own and they had to fight even harder when they would get a shot to the bumper. These cars were considered “real NASCAR” and they were hard to drive unlike the 550.
Another huge issue with the package is the unseen bubble. The bubble is air that comes off the back spoiler and creates an invisible bubble that goes right behind your car which stops people from getting to your bumper, and if they do manage to get through all that dirty air to get to the car ahead, the bubble somewhat pushed the car ahead and stalls the car behind them out. This was put on full display at Kansas last year when Joey Logano held off the field to lock himself into the championship 4 because nobody could fight through the dirty air to get close enough to pass him.
As we watch the 550 package time wind down, we look back on all the races that it has been a ride for sure, good and bad races, air winning most of them in the end, we hope to the racing Gods that when NASCAR puts the next gen cars on the track they throw some big ass engines in there and some tiny spoilers and bring back great racing.