The latest US news roundup including a new rules package for the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series, an F1 driver to Indy, a new crew chief for Jimmie Johnson and the latest playoff standings
NASCAR to reduce power in 2019
In an effort to make the NASCAR Cup Series more competitive, NASCAR will reduce horsepower from 750 to 550 for 17 of 36 races next season.
The change will not be implemented on any circuit one mile or shorter.
Aero ducts and smaller spacers, which limit airflow into the engine, thus reducing power, will be used at all speedways measuring longer than one mile, apart from at the season-opening Daytona 500.
Other speedways not to use the smaller spacer will be both Pocono events, Atlanta, Darlington and the season finale at Homestead.
A larger spoiler, front splitter and wider front-aero (what NASCAR calls a ‘radiator pan’) will be in place at every race to increase downforce and make cars more stable.
NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell said that NASCAR must evolve, and this change will also keep cars closer: “We know we’ve got some of the brightest engineers in all of sports and what you see with the low-downforce package is a number of increased entry speeds at times, which makes it more difficult probably to produce a tyre that has great wear that the drivers always ask for.
“It makes it more of an emphasis on engineering and wind tunnels versus what we’re all about, and that’s the drivers and hard side-by-side racing.”
The change has been a long time coming – NASCAR tested it in the non-championship $1 million ‘All-Star Race’ in May.
While NASCAR is opting for a reduction in power, races at Daytona (apart from the season-opening Daytona 500) and Talladega will not use power-reducing restrictor plates for the first time since 1987.
Three tyre tests will take place using the 2019 rules package this year, with tests at Charlotte, Atlanta and Las Vegas scheduled. A test at Phoenix took place today, but without the smaller spacers and aero ducts that reduce airflow into the engine.
Other rules changes include the removal of a driver-controlled track-bar, which moves the rear axle laterally and affects car balance on-the-fly.
Marcus Ericsson looking to IndyCar
Outgoing Sauber Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson could be in line for a Carlin IndyCar seat following his replacement at the Swiss squad, according to Racer.
“The most attractive for me is IndyCar at the moment, so I’m looking at it,” Ericsson said to Racer.
“We’re talking to some teams there. I think it’s a realistic target. We also are talking to teams in other categories as well.”
He also said that IndyCar may be the best route back to F1 and praised the racing in IndyCar.
Carlin has confirmed that Max Chilton will drive the no59 Chevrolet next year but Charlie Kimball’s seat hasn’t been finalised yet. Ericsson previously raced for Carlin in 2008 at the Macau Grand Prix.
Jimmie Johnson to split from crew chief
Chad Knaus will leave Jimmie Johnson’s no48 squad, with whom he’s helped win a record seven NASCAR Cup Series titles in 17 years as Johnson’s crew chief.
Knaus will stay at Hendrick Motorsports, returning to the no24 team as William Byron’s crew chief. Current no24 chief Darian Grubb will change to a technical role at Hendrick.
However, Johnson is now in a 53-race win drought and was knocked out of the playoffs at the Charlotte ‘Roval’ race in a last-lap scrap with Martin Truex Jr.
“It’s no secret that Chad and Jimmie have experienced their ups and downs over the years,” said owner Rick Hendrick.
“They’re fierce competitors, great friends and have immense respect for one another. They also fight like brothers. All three of us agree it’s finally time for new challenges and that a change will benefit them and the organization.”
Under Knaus, Johnson has not only tied Richard Petty/Dale Earnhardt for championships but taken 83 wins and 351 top-five finishes. Knaus started his career at the no24 squad with Jeff Gordon.
“You can’t quantify how much Chad’s leadership and championship experience will benefit William, who is a special talent,” added Hendrick.
“The two of them are a great match, and I’m excited to see what they can do together. Chad has the Rainbow Warriors pedigree and truly appreciates the history of the No. 24. I’ve asked him to build another winner and given him the green light to put his stamp on the team and do it his way.”
Kevin Meendering will now be the no48’s chief, moving from Elliott Sadler’s JR Motorsports Xfinity squad – which has an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports – to the Cup Series team.
Petit Le Mans showdown
At Road Atlanta on Saturday, Corvette could seal another GTLM title – its 13th team title and 12th drivers’ championship in 20 years of racing.
Its third title in a row could come from Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, who need to finish fourth or better in the 10-hour race. The no3 Corvette’s only other challenge comes from the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook.
The Patrón Endurance Cup – a four-round series comprising Daytona 24 Hours, Sebring 12 Hours, Six Hours of the Glen and Petit – is led by Ford GT drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, only narrowly, over Porsche 911 duo Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet. The 911s will be sporting a 1998 throwback livery, harking back to their first Petit Le Mans entry.
Scott Dixon will join Briscoe and Westbrook in the third-place Ford GT, who also have a chance at the Cup.
The prototype championship has come down to a two-way showdown between the no31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi (Felipe Nasr/Eric Curran/Mike Conway) and the no54 Core Autosport Ligier LMP2 (Colin Braun/Jonathan Bennett), which are four points apart. The no31 comfortably leads the overall Endurance Cup.
Kasey Kahne sits out season, replaced
Kasey Kahne, who announced in August his decision to retire from NASCAR, will no longer be able to finish the rest of the 2018 Cup season with Leavine Family Racing. While declared unfit to race in NASCAR, he says he hopes to return to sprint cars soon.
Regan Smith will step in for the remaining races.
Kahne, 38, suffered heatstroke at Darlington this year and wrote on Twitter: ‘My body just can’t handle extended periods of time in the race car and we weren’t able to control the sweat ratio to keep me hydrated enough to prevent any permanent damage to my body.’