Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – HAMPTON, GA – As the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series gets into full swing, the concept of a “Big Three” might be dead on arrival.
At least that’s what Martin Truex Jr. thinks.
Last season, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick won eight races each, and Truex added four as the so-called Big Three grabbed the trophies in 20 of the 36 points races in NASCAR’s premier series.
All three drivers qualified for the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, only to lose the title to late bloomer Joey Logano.
With a new higher-downforce, lower-horsepower competition package in place for the 2019 season, however, Truex doubts that any three drivers will combine to win more than half the races.
“Unfortunately, yeah, I believe that’s correct,” Truex said with a wry smile during a media session on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, host venue for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (2 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“Again, it’s all speculation. I don’t know until we get going. You’re still going to have teams figure it out better than others. Whether we’re one of those, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Not only are the new rules designed to keep the cars closer together, but Truex expects the package to accentuate the unique characteristics that distinguish one track from the next.
Consequently, what works at one intermediate speedway—Las Vegas, for example—may not be an optimal solution at Texas or Chicagoland.
“Oh, yeah, it’ll be different everywhere,” predicted Truex, who won eight races during his 2017 championship season. “The package is going to look a little different depending on the track we’re at and what we’re able to do with it.
“Here (at Atlanta) it’s so worn out and so rough and bumpy, it’s hard to… in order to get through the corners, you kind have to have some air on your car. Next week (at Las Vegas), we’ll definitely be drafting—at least that’s what everyone is kind of thinking.”
The first test of the new package comes on Sunday, and to Truex, it’s still a vast unknown.
“Nobody has any idea about anything,” he said. “I think pretty much all teams had more questions going into practice (Friday) than any time I can remember in the sport, maybe back to when we first ran the Car of Tomorrow (in 2007).
“It was just there were so many questions and so many different ways you can do this. There’s so many different options to set the car up aero-wise and different things. A lot of questions and only an hour and 20 minutes of practice, so still a lot to learn.
“We go to Phoenix (a one-mile flat track on March 10), and it’s going to be totally different again with more horsepower, so, yeah, we’re going to learn a lot through the first five races with the different race tracks and then try to figure it out and go from there.”