LVMS embraces controversial 2019 NASCAR rules package

Updated October 4, 2018 - 2:11 pm

Three weeks ago the auto racing gods frowned on Las Vegas Motor Speedway. They unleashed a 100-degree, heat-seeking missile on the inaugural South Point 400 NASCAR playoff race for which there was no relief.

Attendance slipped to around 45,000 — an all-time low for a Cup Series race in Las Vegas.

On Tuesday, the racing gods at NASCAR headquarters belatedly smiled on the speed plant north of town.

A multitiered 2019 rules package expected to provide closer competition on NASCAR’s intermediate-sized speedways officially was adopted. A test is tentatively set for Dec. 5 and 6 at LVMS, the week after NASCAR Champion’s Week in Las Vegas.

Kevin Harvick dominated this year’s spring race at LVMS, sweeping all three stages and leading 214 of 267 laps. Under the new rules, drivers will have less horsepower and more downforce at the 1.5-mile tracks, which in theory will prevent breakaway victories such as Harvick’s.

LVMS president Chris Powell is traveling this week, but his giddiness came across in a statement:

“This similar package was a huge success in the (NASCAR) All-Star race this past May and should add even more excitement to the Pennzoil 400 on March 3,” Powell said. “I applaud the cooperation between NASCAR, the race teams, manufacturers and speedways to continue to make improvements in our sport.”

But Powell may be in the minority when it comes to performing cartwheels on pit road.

The end result of the new package, according to detractors, is that the Cup cars will be “dumbed down” to where they are too easy to drive, making it difficult for top teams and drivers to exhibit skill and dominance. Many NASCAR fans and drivers have publicly denounced the new rules.

But the racing gods at NASCAR headquarters are confident the changes will improve stock car racing’s entertainment quotient.

“I think you’ll see a pretty similar package to what we had in the All-Star race and what we’ve seen in the Xfinity Series,” NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell said. “We think that’ll put it more in the drivers’ hands, especially as we go to some of the intermediate tracks, and are excited to see how that plays out.”

Green, white, checkered

— After earning pole position in the recent K&N Pro Series West race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and finishing second in the race after using a bungee cord to hold a broken gearshift in place, 17-year-old Hailie Deegan became the first female to win a race in the stepping stone series with a last-lap pass of teammate Cole Rouse at Meridian (Ohio) Speedway on Saturday night.

— Deegan wasn’t the only driver who raised eyebrows in the K&N event at the LVMS Dirt Track. Race winner Sheldon Creed has landed a ride with GMS Racing for the final four Truck Series races of the 2018 season. GMS is owned by Maury Gallagher, CEO of Las Vegas-based Allegiant Airlines.

— Six points titles — NASCAR Bombers and Super Stocks, USLCI Legends, Thunder Cars, Bandolero Outlaws and Skid Plate Cars — will be decided on Championship Night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring Saturday. Gates open at 5 p.m. with racing at 7.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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