Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) teams go into the new season with a new package that will keep them guessing early in the year. Series officials are throwing away the restrictor plate after the Daytona 500 Sunday (Fox, 2:30 p.m.) and replacing it with a tapered spacer to affect carburetor air flow to limit horsepower.
Cars will run with 550 horsepower at all tracks 1.33 miles and larger which includes the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Aero ducts also will create a wake to lessen “dirty air” that effects a trailing car at most larger tracks. At lesser size tracks, 750 horsepower will be available. The tapered spacer eliminates imperfections in restrictor plates that can lead to more slightly more or less horsepower. NASCAR officials are hopeful the new package, effective with the Feb. 24 race at Atlanta, produces closer racing.
Cindric’s rising star
Austin Cindric is looking forward to continuity this year. Last year, the son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric, split his NASCAR Xfinity Series between Penske and Roush Fenway teams. He raced for 12 different primary sponsors, five different crew chiefs and finished 10th in points. Cindric, 20, is rising fast, having raced in the 2017 ARCA Racing Series and 2018 Xfinity Series. His dad played basketball at Pike High School and RoseHulman Institute of Technology and has risen through the ranks with Penske. “Indianapolis is definitely his stomping grounds,” Austin said. “I’ve been to the Indy 500 every year since I was a little kid, so I’ve been able to follow his passion. I try to apply his passion to what I have for the sport.”
Six NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series drivers are driving for new teams this season. They are: 2017 champion Martin Truex Jr., from disbanded Furniture Row to Joe Gibbs; 2004 champion Kurt Busch, from Stewart-Haas to Chip Ganassi; Ryan Newman, from Richard Childress to Roush Fenway; Daniel Suarez, from Joe Gibbs to Stewart-Haas; Matt DiBenedetto, from Go Fas to Leavine Family; and Corey LaJoie, from Tri-Star to Go Fas. A.J. Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne and Reed Sorenson are among Cup drivers without rides this season. Popular Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray have no plans to race.
Dates of NASCAR Monster Energy Cup races in the Midwest: June 9, Michigan International Speedway (MIS); June 30, Chicagoland Speedway; July 13, Kentucky Speedway; Aug. 11, MIS; Sept. 8, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt vs. Gordon
One of NASCAR’s most heated on-track rivalries, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1, Thursday at 10 p.m. “Unrivaled: Earnhardt vs. Gordon” features the on-track rivalry between seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt and four-time champion Jeff Gordon. Each driver had a great impact upon NASCAR’s popularity. The 60-minute documentary also explores the two icons on and off the race track.
Best pre-season quote
During a pre-season media get-together at Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie Johnson was asked how he and new crew chief Kevin Mendering became better acquainted. Johnson simply replied, “A few cold beers help.’