NASCAR has hit back at comments made by Kyle Busch criticising the 2019 aerodynamic package during Cup Series testing at Las Vegas on Thursday.
The Cup series will run a variation of two new aero packages at 22 of 36 races this year, with increased downforce and engine horsepower implemented to encourage drafting and closer racing.
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Busch told the media that NASCAR had “taken the driver skill away from the drivers in this package”.
Busch added that he expected Cup series racing in 2019 to be “more of a mental game, a lot more of a chess match, thinking how you make moves, how daring you’ll be”.
Responding to Busch’s comments, NASCAR’s vice president for innovation and racing development John Probst said: “These drivers, some are going to love it, some are going to hate it, no matter what we race.
“I was just encouraging fans who are on the fence to give it a try, I think they are going to be pleasantly surprised at what they see at the race track.
“For the drivers we know who don’t like it, they are very good at what they do and they get paid a really good chunk of money to do things that take a lot of talent.
“If they want to spout off about [this racing] not needing a whole lot of talent, then eventually that will hit them in the pocketbook, too.
“They should be careful.”
NASCAR’s new package has so far been tested at Fontana and Las Vegas, with Goodyear tyre testing offering unrepresentative and limited additional running for select teams.
During 10 hours of testing at Las Vegas, NASCAR made 14 teams compete in three 25-lap drafting sessions to replicate racing conditions.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer said it will take time for teams to adjust to the package.
“The cars seemed to handle well,” he said. “There was a lot of wide-open throttle time, which we knew going in.
“It’s going to be a work in progress to see how you balance that drag versus downforce and the risk versus the reward.”
Probst added that NASCAR still has work to do with its new package.
“I feel pretty good so far,” he said.
“Even in the first session, where they all started single-file all pretty spread out, you saw cars that weren’t good in the early part of the run, [but] by the time you got to about seven [laps] to go, they worked their way back to the front.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know even when days go rough, it’s probably not as bad as how you feel in the moment.
“We feel like things have gone pretty well, but by no means are we high-fiving and declaring any kind of victory.
“We still know we have a lot of work to do.”