The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars practiced for the final time at Bristol Friday. There were two practices held Friday and qualifying will be Friday evening. The cars will be impounded for the race Saturday night.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the final practice at Bristol…
The weather for final practice was cloudy and 80 degrees. The weather the race Saturday night is forecast to be partly cloudy and 65. The track should have more grip tomorrow than what we saw in Friday’s practice.
NASCAR put traction compound at the bottom of the track to improve the racing. The preferred grove will be the bottom of the track at the beginning of the race and the high grove should come in after 200 laps.
Goodyear brought back the same tire that they ran in the spring race at Bristol. This should give the teams an idea of what they need to go fast Saturday night.
Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher, AJ Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. had a 15-minute penalty in final practice for failing inspection at Michigan.
Denny Hamlin will race this weekend. His wife had their baby earlier this week, so no baby watch for Hamlin.
Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch had the fastest speeds in the morning practice.
Chase Elliott: Elliott has the 2nd-best average finishing position at Bristol but he only has three races on his MENCS resume. His car was fast again Friday.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie won the last race at Bristol and he has the best average finishing position in the last 5 races at the track. Jimmie really worked to get the top lane of the track to come in. His lap times do not represent how fast his car is because he was running the top. The No. 48 team put the car in the garage with 30 minutes left in practice. That is usually a sign they like their car.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior went out for a long run and said, “It starts off really loose and it gets tighter and tighter as we get deeper into the run.” Junior went out for a long run and the car continued to be loose. He was 14th fastest at the time. The team put the qualifying package in the car and Junior said, “That was frickin horrible. It is just so loose I can barely drive it.” Junior said he would rather drive the backup car.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne was really happy with his car in the morning practice. He was 3rd fastest.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin is one of the most consistent drivers at Bristol. He has four consecutive top-10 finishes, including a win and a 3rd –place finish in his last three trips to Thunder Valley.
Clint Bowyer: Clint was happy with the car. The team was working on their long runs and he was 12th fastest on the speed chart. The team switched to qualifying trim early in practice (this usually means they are happy with their race trim)
Kurt Busch: Kurt made a long run to start practice. He said, “This is a joke. I don’t know if it is the track or the setup but it feels like I am driving on the marbles. I do not know what to tell ya. We are way off.”
Danica Patrick: Danica used to be pretty good at Bristol. She finished 9th in this race in 2014 but she has not finished inside the top 22 since. He car was loose again today in practice. After a long run she said, “It just snaps loose in the middle of the corner.”
Kyle Larson: Kyle spun out in the morning practice but did not hit anything. He said he just got too loose. Kyle’s lap times were slower in the practice because he was the only driver who ran the top of the track in the morning practice. His car is faster than his lap speeds.
Jamie McMurray: Jamie liked his car. It rolled through the corners a lot better than others. Jamie said, “Overall grip is pretty good, a little loose into the corner and a little tight in the middle. Not bad though.”
Brad Keselowski: Brad needs to find his mojo this week. He used to be very good at Bristol but he has really struggled in the recent races. Brad only has one finish in the top 10 in his last 5 races at the track.
Joey Logano: Joey is pretty much in a “must win” situation if he wants to make the playoffs. Bristol is one of his best tracks but I am worried the pressure is getting to him. He said the car was pretty good but need some help getting it to sit down getting into the corner.
Ryan Blaney: Ryan once again has a fast car but this is his worst track. His average finishing position is 25.3 in Thunder Valley. At the end of practice Ryan said, “We are way better in qualifying trim than we are in race trim. Boy oh boy do we need it not to rain this afternoon. We need the track position and the pit selection and we could get it if qualifying is not rained out.”
Kyle Busch: Kyle was consistently fast on Friday. He was 2nd-fastest in the morning practice and was 2nd-fastest after his first run in race trim in final practice. He won the Camping World Truck Series race Wednesday night. Kyle ran the top of the track in the middle of practice. He said that the best way to pas Saturday night will be to have a car that works well at the top of the track.
Matt Kenseth: Matt is on the playoff bubble and needs a win to clinch a playoff spot. He has 4 wins at Bristol and he finished 4th in the April race at the track.
Denny Hamlin: Denny had the fastest car in the morning practice. He has been a hit or miss driver at Bristol in his career. It looks like he is going to be one of the drivers to beat Saturday night.
Daniel Suarez: The team brought the same setup used by Carl Edwards at Bristol. Suarez said the car felt really good. He was 9th on the speed chart at the time.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin could clinch the single-season title and earn 15 additional playoff points with a good finish Saturday. I expect that to motivate this team even more this week. Martin led 116 laps in the April race at Bristol. Truex served a 15 minute penalty and then worked on the car for 10 minutes before they made any laps in final practice. His practice speeds will be slower because he did not get a clean track to make a lap.
Erik Jones: Erik was very good in the morning practice but said it was like driving on marbles in the final practice. Bristol was the best track for Jones in the Xfinity Series. He should be fast Saturday night.
Ryan Newman: Ryan said, “Pretty tight in the middle off.” The team brought him in to make some adjustments.
Austin Dillon: Austin went out for a short run and said, “A little tight on exit but I think we are definitely in the ballpark.” Austin went out for a long run and said, “I am much better at the top than I am at the bottom.”
Paul Menard: Paul said, “It felt pretty close, just a little tight in the center.” This is one of Paul’s better tracks. He went out for a long run and said, “I’m pretty solid. Just a touch tight trying to keep the corner complete and get into the throttle sooner.”
Ty Dillon: After Ty made a long run to begin practice he said, “This is a lot better than what we had in the previous race here.” The car was 24th fastest after their first run. Bootie Barker made some adjustments and Ty jumped up to 17th fastest. Ty said, “We are headed in the right dierection.”
AJ Allmendinger: AJ was fighting a tight race car all day. He also reported the splitter was hitting the track when he entered the corner. The team made a shock adjustment to help the ride height of the car. AJ went back out for a long run and said, “On the bottom, a little tight off center. On the top, just a tick free off in turn 4. Not bad.”
Chris Buescher: Chris went out for a long run and said, “It feels like there is rubber building up on the tires. We just need more rear grip.” He was 19th fastest at the time. The team made some adjustments and Chris said, “That was definitely better on the bottom of the track.” Chris should be happy since he signed a deal to race the No. 37 car for JTG Daugherty Racing in 2018.
Trevor Bayne: Trevor liked the balance of his car. He went out for a long run and he was 11th on the speed chart.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Ricky was complaining that the car was hitting the splitter in the first practice. They made a shock adjustment between practices and Ricky said the car was a lot better.
Aric Almirola: Aric went out on a long run and said, “We are a lot better in race trim.”
Landon Cassill: Landon made a long run to start practice and he said, “I have few complaints about it on this run.” He finished 30th at Bristol in April.
David Ragan: David said, “We have no grip. Even in the sticky stuff I cannot get any grip. I cannot keep the car from sliding up the track.”
Michael McDowell: Michael has been a good sleeper pick this season but it will be hard to trust him Saturday night. McDowell has an average finishing position of 25.4 in his last 5 races at the track.
Matt Dibenedetto: The No. 32 car was the first car on track in both practices. Matt was excited to get to Bristol. This is his best track. Matt said the car was a bit tight but it should be good. He made a long run and said, “This thing is pretty dang quick.”
Cars that looked good in practice: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray
Click here for Friday Morning Practice Speeds
Click here for Final Practice Speeds
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