The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season has started with action, surprise and usual expectations, but the mix of old and new have made the first six races of the 2019 season: Must-See.
Here’s my take on the first six races of 2019.
The 2019 season-opening Daytona 500 culminated with Denny Hamlin winning the “Great American Race”…an emotional victory dedicated to Joe Gibbs Racing President, J.D. Gibbs, who passed away just weeks prior. Following calamity throughout the final 25% of the 500, Hamlin charged through the field on an overtime-restart, dicing through traffic with two laps to-go to score his second win in the 500, and leading a 1-2-3 finish for JGR with Kyle Bush and Erik Jones rounding out the top-3. With multiple crashes taking out the majority of the field over the final 50 laps. With the excitement and emotion of the 500, the 2019 edition was a finale for one vital part that makes Daytona International Speedway so exciting. NASCAR’s new 2019 rules package changes the restrictor plate to a tapered spacer for future races at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway.
The second race of the 2019 NASCAR season saw the stars take on the rough 1.5 mile Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Folds Of Honor QuickTrip 500 saw a battle late between Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr., with Keselowski earning the victory. With the new aero package truly getting to shine for the first time with the taller rear spoiler, longer splitter, radiator pan and tapered spacer, all those changes at AMS kept the racing very close throughout, allowing for thrilling racing, which at multiple times was four-wide, with close quarters all throughout the 500-miler With how rough the AMS surface is, the aero changes forcing a reduction in horsepower, making an already challenging track that much tougher. Wrecks throughout the race showcased how much harder drivers were pushing to learn about the new package, which in turn, led to hair-raising restarts, and the late duel leading to the exciting finish.
Las Vegas, Phoenix, Auto Club
(West Coast Swing)
Races 3-5 of the 2019 season saw the changes made by the sanctioning body be tested with three different-sized racetracks during the West Coast Swing. The three-race stretch began with the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, LVMS was a second-straight 1.5 mile track race that ended with close racing to the finish. Joey Logano scored his first win of 2019, with his teammate, Brad Keselowski finishing directly behind Logano in a bumper-to-bumper finish.
Moving on to ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Kyle Bush earned win number 199 of his career across all three NASCAR national series, winning the MENCS event in the “Valley Of The Sun.” Bush claimed victory over his JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr., in just the second race with the finish-line at the track in the dog-leg portion of the speedway.
Following a slightly calmer race for 2019, the wild moves picked back up at Auto Club Speedway in California. The Auto Club 400 at the 2-mile speedway that’s a staple of four, and at times, five-wide racing saw Kyle Bush win again, giving him 200 wins across NASCAR’s three top series. The milestone was celebrated, but quickly made his own, as KB’s feat is different than Richard Petty earning 200 wins, as all of Petty’s wins came in the premier series for NASCAR. The on track portion of the weekend chatter also charged, with a track that’s used to seeing the field spread out throughout portions of the annual race, now saw regular pack-style racing, all culminating with a talked-about finish, in the days that followed.
The STP 500 at NASCAR’s oldest track, Martinsville Speedway, was a very tame and surprising race based on the track’s history and reputation, ending with…domination. Brad Keselowski won the race leading 449 of the 500 laps, in an all-day battle with runner-up, Chase Elliott. Elliott lead 49 laps, while Keselowski’s teammate, Joey Logano was the only other leader, with 5 laps out front. The race was tame, by the speedway’s standards, with the only multi-car accident of the day occurring on Lap 313 between Ty Dillon and William Byron.
Up next is Texas Motor Speedway. Next week, the traditional NASCAR News: Track Talk Podcast, will return recapping the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.