The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars practiced for the final time at Chicago Saturday. There were one practice held Friday and two practices on Saturday. Qualifying was held Friday evening and most of the cars in the Friday practice worked on their qualifying setup. The teams worked on their race setups in the two practices Saturday so we should have a good idea which drivers have the fast cars for Sunday.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the final practice at Saturday…
The weather for final practice was mostly sunny and 84 degrees. The weather forecast for the race Sunday is mostly cloudy on 80 degrees. There is rain in the forecast for Sunday so it could be a short race.
This is one of the oldest surfaces on the schedule. The last time Chicago was repaved was in 2001. The tires will wear out fast in the race Sunday. The drivers who were able to qualify up front without putting extra laps on their tires will have the advantage at the start of the race at Chicago.
The drivers competing in the playoffs will once again have the green splitter, green stripe on the windshield and the green spoiler. They will also have a sticker that reads, “Round of 16”.
Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez and David Ragan participated in a tire test at Chicago in June.
Kyle Busch will get the pit crew from the No. 19 car (Daniel Suarez) for the playoffs. The No. 19 pit crew has been the #1 rated pit crew this season.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne are swapping pit crews as well.
Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth Daniel Suarez, Jimmy Johnson and Aric Almirola had 30 minute penalties in final practice for failing multiple inspections.
Ty Dillon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, AJ Allmendinger and Matt Dibendetto had 15 minute penalties in final practice for failing 1 inspection.
Chase Elliott: Chase made a long run to begin practice and the team told him, “You are looking good. 3rd fastest so far and your long run speed is one of the best.” Chase said, “It feels about like last year.” He finished 4th and led 75 laps in the race last year.
Jimmie Johnson: The No. 48 car did not have top 5 speed in practice but it is hard to tell what the team will have in the race. Chad Knaus said they were working on their long run speed because he expects many long runs Sunday. I expect Jimmie to finish higher than his practice speeds this week.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior made some long laps runs in final practice. He said, “The car has good balance but it is a little too bumpy. We need to get it to roll better.” In an interview with MRN Junior said, “Since we are not part of the playoffs my goals have changed. I am not worried about winning races. I just want to ensure the team finishes strong without any more mistakes”
Kasey Kahne: Kasey said after qualifying that his car was way too tight. The team worked to free up the car before the practices Saturday and Kahne has more speed. It was still too tight at the end of practice. I am sure the No. 5 car will debrief with the No. 24 car after practice to help free Kasey up. Kahne starts 25th Sunday and should score some position differential points.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin told MRN before Friday’s practice, “We simply do not have the cars to win right now, but we can finish in the top 5. We have to point race the first two rounds and try to make sure we finish in the top 5. Hopefully we can find some speed to wins races in the final round.” Harvick does have the best car on the long runs this week.
Clint Bowyer: Clint made a 25-lap run to begin practice. He ran different parts of the track to find the best grip. The team told Clint, “Your lap times are competitive and your long run speed in on the right side of the chart.”
Kurt Busch: Kurt had problems in the morning practice Friday. He backed the car out of the garage and the car died. Kurt could not get it to re-fire.
Danica Patrick: Danica started final practice with an 8 lap run. She said the car was too tight. They brought her in to make some adjustments.
Kyle Larson: Kyle started practice with a long run. He complained the splitter was hitting the track when he went over the bumps and it was making his car loose. Kyle had a lot better car in qualifying then he did in practice.
Jamie McMurray: Jamie made a short run and brought the car to the garage. He said, “We have no rear grip, especially in 3 and 4.”
Brad Keselowski: Brad has been very vocal about the advantage the Toyota’s have. His team worked hard to narrow the gap.
Joey Logano: Joey qualified 7th but can he stay there? He was 9th fastest after his first run. He said the car was a little too loose and the splitter was chattering. The team made some adjustments.
Ryan Blaney: The No. 21 car had mechanical issues in the final round of qualifying. Ryan was unable to make a lap so he starts 12th.
Kyle Busch: Kyle had the fastest speed in Friday’s practice. His qualifying lap was .300 faster than Denny Hamlin who was 2nd. That is a huge gap in speed. It was the largest speed gap over 2nd place since 2009 at Indianapolis. His car was fastest in 1st practice and final practice. It will be tough to be Kyle this week.
Matt Kenseth: Matt has a car that is a lot better on the long runs then it is on the short runs. Matt was 9th fastest in the morning practice with the 3rd best 10-lap average speed. He had to serve a penalty in final practice so his lap times were not as fast as they could have been. Kenseth seems to have a top-10 car this week.
Denny Hamlin: Denny was not happy with his car. He said, “As soon as the splitter pops up I lose all of my speed. It is just too loose, no confidence and the exit sucks too.”
Daniel Suarez: Daniel had to serve a penalty in final practice. He tried a lot of different setups. I think he was trying stuff for his teammates since he is not in the playoffs. Suarez starts 13th and should finish in the top 15 Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex was fastest in the morning practice Saturday. He had to serve a 30 minute penalty in final practice so his lap times were not as fast as they could have been if they started on a clean track. Truex definitely has the car to beat this week.
Erik Jones: Erik spun out in qualifying. He will start last (because he changed his tires) but will be scored from the 24th position in fantasy games. The team was working on their long-run speed in practice.
Ryan Newman: Ryan made a long run to start practice and said, “Our car runs really well on the bottom of the track. Just give me a little more at the top.” After his final run Ryan said, “It feels pretty sporty.”
Austin Dillon:.Austin had a great qualifying session. He will start 9th Sunday. In practice Dillon said, “No rear grip, no forward driver and way too loose. Other than that it is fine.” The team made some major adjustments between the two practice sessions and Dillon was happy with the car. Dillon was 2nd-fastest after his first run.
Paul Menard: Paul was too tight in final practice. The team made some adjustments and Paul said the car was much better. He was still only 25th fastest on the speed chart.
Ty Dillon: The car was a little loose in final practice. Bootie Barker told him to work his track bar. Ty made some adjustments inside the car and said, “That really helped the balance.”
AJ Allmendinger: AJ made a long run and said, “It is massive tight.”
Chris Buescher: Chris made two long runs to start practice. He said, “That was the best adjustments we made all weekend.” The team brought him in to make some more changes in the same direction.
Trevor Bayne: Trevor was way too tight in the morning practice and the team made some major adjustments between the two practice periods Saturday. After a long run Bayne said, “It is much better.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Ricky was not happy with his car. He said, “Way too loose and no rear grip. I can barely hold onto it.” The team made some adjustments and he still was not happy with the car.
Aric Almirola: Aric made a long run and said, “Too tight to start but it starts to loosen up the farther we get into the run. Overall it is no better than yesterday.” The team was going to take a big swing at it after practice.”
David Ragan: David went out and made a long run. He ran 5 laps at the top,5 laps in the middle and 5 laps at the bottom. The team told him, “You are much better at the top. Bring it in and we will fix you up on the bottom.”
Michael McDowell: Michael was a little too loose on his first run. He adjusted the track bar and he said the car was much better. After his last long run McDowell said, “Wow I think we hit on something.” The team spent the rest of practice working on their pitroad speed.
Cars that looked good in practice: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon
Click here for Friday Practice Speeds
Click here for Saturday Morning Practice Speeds
Click here for Final Practice Speeds
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