Does less horsepower in NASCAR's Cup series make drivers feel ‘neutered’?

Team Penske driver has three wins in NASCAR’s Cup series so far this season.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series is racing at one of the faster tracks on the schedule this weekend, the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway oval.

This first of two-trips to the speedway near Detroit however is a bit different.  NASCAR introduced a new aero package for 2019. Perhaps the biggest change is lower horsepower, from 750 to 550 at tracks larger than 1-mile.  All the changes are meant to tighten up the racing, and by most accounts that has been successful so far.

Early into the Michigan weekend, those fewer horses have slowed the cars. Friday Kevin Harvick led practice with a speed of 188.763 mph. At Michigan last June, Harvick also led practice, with a speed of 200.719.

But does the lower horsepower at traditionally one of the faster tracks in the series leave drivers wanting more? Do drivers, raised to go as fast as possible, feel somewhat ‘neutered’?

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say the word “neutered”,” Brad Keselowski said at Michigan Friday. “I would just use the word “different”. At the end of the day, it is still a challenge and there is still a race to be put on and there is going to be a winner and a lot of losers. The basics remain the same.”

Keselowski should know what he’s talking about. After all he was won three of the 14 races so far in the 2019 Cup season.  For the record, all with the new package.

“Well, it is definitely different,” Keselowski said. “It is a bit more of a chess match than it was the raw talent phase. I haven’t put a lot of thought into that as of late. The reality is that the rules are what the rules are. I feel like I could spend a lot of time and energy really digesting my thoughts on all that stuff but the reality is that I am not going to be able to change it. It kind of is what it is”

And when all is said and done, Keselowski said he has one job.

“It is my responsibility and opportunity to maximize our performance within whatever given rules are out there,” he said. “I haven’t really, nor do I want to, digested or reflected upon the differences all that deeply. I feel like I have just entered a mode that it is what it is and you either get happy with it or find something else to do and I really don’t want to do something else. I want to win another championship. I want to win races like this one. I don’t want to waste any of my brain space that I have available, which is very limited, thinking about things that I can’t change.”

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