The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete at Kansas Speedway Saturday night. There was only one practice for the MENCS Friday. There was rain in the morning so the schedule had to be adjusted. NASCAR decided to have one practice for a little over two hours. Qualifying will be Friday evening. It will be interesting to see how the daytime practice speeds will translate into speed in the night race.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the practices at Kansas…
The weather was partly cloudy and 84 degrees in final practice. The forecast for the race is 78 degrees so the track should have a little more grip than what we saw in the final practice. What is more important is the winds. Usually the winds blowing across the track really affect the cars at Kansas, but there is only supposed to be 10 MPH winds during the race.
MENCS teams received 3 sets of tires for the practice session. They also received another set of tires for qualifying and to start the race on. The teams will use the same right-side tire that was used at Kansas last season but there will be a new left-side tire which is designed to put more rubber into the track.
There have been 63 speeding penalties at Kansas since 2014, including 28 in the last two seasons. Many of the teams practiced their pit road speed because of this.
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon had to serve penalties in practice.
Chase Elliott: The No. 9 team has struggled on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Elliott ranks 18th in average finishing position. The team is still trying to find an aerodynamics package on the new Chevy Camero ZL1 car. His average finishing position in the last 4 races at Kansas is 18.3. Elliott was not happy with his car. He said, “Too tight.. no turn in it.. loading up in the center…just nothing man. Absolutely nothing!!”
Jimmie Johnson: This is one of Johnson’s best tracks but this team has been in a slump for over a year. Johnson has an average finishing position of 15th on the three 1.5-mile tracks this season. He has finished the last three non-plate races in the top 10 so there is hope for this team Saturday night. Johnson was the only driver running the top of the track. Chad Knuas asked Johnson, “What are you doing running up there?” Johnson said, “This is where I will have to make passes during the race so I am just feeling it out.” Running the top probably hurt his practice speeds.
Alex Bowman: Bowman drove the no. 88 car for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Kansas in 2016. He qualified 5th and finished 7th. I am not so sure he will be that good this week. His average finishing position at the three 1.5-mile tracks this season is 21.3. Bowman made some long runs and said, “It is really edgy. I am uncomfortable driving hard into the corner.” Bowman was 15th fastest at the time.
William Byron: Byron does not have much experience at Kansas. He has one start in the Xfinity Series (Finished 4th) and one start in the Campning World Truck Series (Finished 1st). Byron has been the best Hendrick Motorsports driver on the 1.5-mile tracks. He finished 10th in the last race at Texas. Byron made some long runs to get adjusted to the car. He asked his team how he looked and they said, “You made two really solid runs. Your times are right up there with the best cars.”
Kyle Larson: Larson has been pretty good on the large oval tracks this season. He finished 9th at Atlanta, 3rd at Las Vegas, 2nd at Fontana and crashed at Texas (He was running 7th at the time). Kansas ranks as his 3rd worst track though. His average finishing position in his 8 races at Kansas is 21st. Larson was fighting a loose racecar but that is nothing new. The No. 42 team always starts off practice very loose and then tightens him up because Larson likes a loose racecar. At the end of practice Larson said, “I am not sure what we can do to make it any better. It feels pretty good.” He was 3rd fastest at the time.
Jamie McMurray: This is the home track for McMurray and he has not been very good. His average finishing position in his last 6 races at Kansas is 25th. His average finishing position in the 3 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season is 19.3. He did finish 3rd at Texas though. McMurray was having problems with the splitter hitting the track. The team made a shock adjustment and it helped a little but the car was still too bouncy over the bumps in the track.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick has been the best driver on the 1.5-mile tracks this season and he is the favorite to win Saturday night. Harvick has finished 1st at Atlanta, 1st at Las Vegas and 2nd at Texas. He will be driving the same car he won at Kansas with in 2016. The car also won at Texas last year and finished 2nd at Pocono. The No. 4 team worked on their long run speed. That is common for them. Harvick said, “I ran it concretively on that run. I feel like the speed is kept in the car at the end of the run.” He was 5th fastest on the speed chart at the time. They had a problem with the streering in the car so they changed the power steering pump and the problem was resolved.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer is having the best season of his career. He has finished the last 6 non-plate races in the top 11. This is his home track and he really wants to win here. He will be driving the car that he finished 2nd in at Fontana last year. Bowyer liked his car. He said the balance was really good.
Kurt Busch: Busch has been really good at Kansas in his career. His average finishing position in the last 6 races at the track is 9.3. Busch won the pole, led 40 laps and finished 7th in the last race on a 1.5-mile track at Texas. Busch said, “The car is tight getting into all corners and then it gets loose into three, probably because of the wind. The front gets into the track well but I need some help turning it through the center.”
Aric Almirola: Almirola returns to the track where he broke his back last year. Do not expect him to be gunshy. Almirola finished 9th in his return to Kansas last October and that was in a Richard Petty Motorsports car. Almirola looked good in practice. The No. 10 car was one of the first cars on the track and he went straight to the top of the speed chart.
Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has one win at Kansas (2015) and he finished 2nd in the race last October. He has run pretty well on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 2nd at Atlanta and 6th at Las Vegas. Keselowski made some long runs and he said, “It feels numb in 3 and 4. 1 and 2 are really good.” (Numb means he cannot feel the tires into the track) He was 8th-fastest at the time.
Joey Logano: Logano has been one of the most consistent drivers on the track this season. Logano has finished 9 of the 11 races in the top 10. He has two wins at Kansas (2014 and 2015) but has crashed in 2 of his last three races. He will need better luck this week. If you are supersticious, do not select Logano this week. He has driven the AAA Insurance car 3 times at Kansas (he is in it again this week) and has crashed it all 3 times. Logano did not run any laps in qualifying trim. He will use the notes from his teammates for qualifying.
Ryan Blaney: Kansas ranks as the best track for Blaney. His average finishing position in his 4 races at the track is 6.5 and he has led 119 laps. Blaney has finished the last 2 races on the 1.5-mile tracks in the top 5. Blaney made a short run followed by 3 long runs. He liked his car. He said, “The changes we are making are really helping. Each time I come out I can get into the throttle earlier then the run before.”
Paul Menard: Menard has only been average on the 1.5-mile tracks in the Wood Brothers Racing car. He finished 17th at Atlanta, 9th at Las Vegas and crashed at Texas. His average finishing position at Kansas is 23.3. Menard made some long runs and said, “Too tight in, too tight off. I really need to be loosened up.” They brought him in for some major adjustments.
Kyle Busch: Busch will get some extra track time this weekend since he will be driving the No. 4 truck in the race Friday night. Busch has been the 2nd-best driver on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 7th at Atlanta, 2nd at Las Vegas and 1st at Texas. His average finishing position in the last 6 races at Kansas is 4th. Busch worked on his long run speed in practice. He was more concerned with running consistent laps than he was worried about posting the fastest lap. They switched to qualifying trim and Busch went to the top of the speed chart. He looks very good this week, again!!
Erik Jones: Jones has 3 races at Kansas on his resume. He has never finished inside the top 20. Maybe he will figure out the track this week. Jones has finished all 3 races on the 1.5-mile tracks in the top 11 this season. Jones liked his car. He said, “Not bad…not bad. It really rolls through the center good and the throttle reacts the way I like. It is a bit snug on entry.”
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has struggled at Kansas the last 2 seasons. His average finishing position at the track is 20th. He did run 86% of the laps in the top 15 so his struggles have a lot to do with bad luck and penalties. Hamlin also crashed in the last race at a 1.5-mile track at Texas. Denny was fighting a tight racecar. He said, “Once I try to throttle up off of 4 it pushes up the racetrack. We definitely need to free it up some.”
Daniel Suarez: Suarez is my sleeper pick this week. He has finished 4 races in a row in the top 11. Suarez finished 7th in this race last year. The No. 19 team has been starting practice using a lot of the notes from the No. 11 car. Saurez was fighting a tight racecar. He was 15th fastest but the team felt that their long run speed was not too bad.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex won both races at Kansas last year. He has also won the pole in 2 of the last 4 races at the track. Truex has run in the top 5 in the 3 races on the 1.5-mile tracks this season but he had a tire go down and crashed at Texas. The No. 78 team was working on their long run speed. Cole Pearn did not want his car to be too tight in practice because he thinks the track conditions at night will tighten up the car. So they were practicing with a setup they think will work Saturday night instead of what is working during the daytime Friday.
Ryan Newman: Newman had a lot of bad luck at Kansas last year. He had on oil pump go out in the spring race and crashed in the fall. Before that he had 7 consecutive finishes in the top 12 at Kansas. His average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season is 20th. Newman told his team after a long run, “The balance is not bad. It feels pretty fast but there is a new bump out there and it feels like I am going over railroad tracks when I hit it.”
Austin Dillon: Dillon was not happy with the aerodynamics of his car last week. He said their downforce sucked. Dillon has not been very good on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. His average finishing position is 17.7. He finished 16th and 14th at Kansas last year. Dillon was fighting a loose racecar. He asked his team “Is the wind coming off of turn 3.” They replied, “Exactly.” Dillon said, “That is the corner I cannot get in or out of.” At the end of practice Dillon said, “Our car is a lot better now. This is pretty good.”
Ty Dillon: Dillon has really struggled this season. He only has 2 finishes inside the top 20. The good news is that his best race of the season was at Texas. Dillon qualified 29th and finished 15th. There were a lot of wrecks in that race though and that allowed him to move forward. Dillon was not happy with his car. He said, “It has not stability. The balance is way off.”
Kasey Kahne: Kahne will be a great choice in salary cap games and DFS. Kahne has an average finishing position of 14.5 in his last 4 races at Kansas. He finished his last 2 races on the 1.5-mile tracks inside the top 20. This team is getting better each week. Kahne made a long run and said, “I have not turn in it. I go into the corner too straight and have to wait too long for it to pivot in the center.” The brought him in for some big adjustments.
AJ Allmendinger: The No. 47 car has not had the speed to keep up with the competition on the 1.5-mile tacks this season. Allmendinger finished 29th at Altanta, 30th at Las Vegas and 24th at Texas. He also finished both races at Kansas outside the top 30 last year. Allmendinger complained about his car being way too loose. He said, “It is loose in and loose off and when the wind hits it I almost spin out.”
Chris Buescher: Buescher could be a sneaky good pick this week in salary cap games and in DFS. He has an average finishing position of 17.2 at Kansas, including a 6th-place finish last October. Buescher finished the last two races on 1.5-mile tracks this season in the top 15. After his 3rd run Buescher told his team, “I get into the corner really good, center it good but I need help getting back to the throttle.” At the end of practice Buescher said, “Whatever you did to it worked. It really came to life on this run.”
Darrell Wallace Jr.: This will be Bubba’s first race in the MENCS at Kansas. He does have 2 races in the Xfinity Series on his resume. He finished 11th and 33rd in those races. Bubba is coming off a 8th place finish at Texas so there is some hope for this team. Wallace said his car was a little tight but not bad. After his 3rd long run he said, “We are pretty close to what we had at Texas (Wallace finished in the top 10 at Texas).”
Matt Kenseth: Kenseth will make his return to NASCAR in the No. 6 car for Roush Fenway Racing. This is one of Kenseth’s best tracks. He has 2 wins at the track and a 12.7 average finishing position. Kenseth had the slowest lap times after his first run. He was just feeling out the car. Each time he went out he was making faster laps times. This race may be more about practice and feeling out the car then actually trying to win the race this week. The No. 6 team put on fresh tires and went on the track and Almirola passed his like he was in park. Almirola was on his 17 lap in his run.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has been pretty good at Kansas in his career and having Matt Kenseth on his team should help him this week. Stenhouse has an average finishing position of 17th on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Ricky was fighting a tight racecar. He usually likes to run the top of the track and the car to be loose so they brought him in for some big changes. He was 16th fastest at the time. Stenhouse said his team plans to debrief with Kenseth tonight to see if found anything that could help their car.
David Ragan: Ragan finished 17th in both races at Kansas last year and that was in a car built by Front Row Racing. Now he will have a Roush Fenway Racing car with a Roush Yates engine and the ability to bounce information off of Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ragan will be a good cheap driver in salary cap games and DFS Saturday night. Ragan made some long laps and said, “It is snappy loose on the exits of 2 and 4.”
Michael McDowell: McDowell finished 13th and 18th in the two races at Kansas last year. He is also coming off a 14th-place finish at Texas. McDowell could be a sneaky good pick this week to round out your salary cap game and in DFS. McDowell was fighting a loose racecar. He said, “It starts off tight and gets looser and looser with each lap. By the end of the run it is hard to hold onto.”
Matt Dibenedetto: Dibenedetto has been getting a lot more out of his car than what is has in it. A good example is the race at Texas this year. Dibendetto qualified 30th and was able to drive it to a 16th-place finish. He finished 22nd and 32nd in his two races at Kansas last year. Dibenedetto liked his car. He said, “Balance is good. Not too tight or free but I need a little help getting to the throttle off of 2.”
Cars that looked good in practice: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski.
Good Sleeper Picks: Erik Jones, William Byron, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Darrell Wallace Jr., Chris Buescher and Matt Dibendetto
Click here for Final Practice Speeds
Here are the Top-25 Speeds before any cars switched over to qualifying trim…
- Aric Almirola 181.763
- Kyle Busch 181.536
- Kyle Larson 181.366
- Ryan Blaney 181.299
- Kevin Harvick 181.297
- Erik Jones 181.238
- Joey Logano 181.190
- Kurt Busch 181.099
- Brad Keselowski 181.081
- William Byron 181.032
- Martin Truex Jr. 180.629
- Denny Hamlin 180.403
- Clint Bowyer 180.313
- Darrell Wallace Jr. 180.264
- Daniel Suarez 180.090
- Chase Elliott 179.976
- Alex Bowman 179.605
- Jimmie Johnson 179.348
- Ryan Newman 179.146
- Austin Dillon 179.057
- Jamie McMurray 179.021
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 178.796
- Chris Buescher 178.719
- Matt Dibendetto 178.613
- Kasey Kahne 178.538
Best 15-Consecutive Lap Avg. Speed
- Kyle Busch 30.11
- Kyle Larson 30.05
- Aric Almirola 30.12
- Clint Bowyer 30.12
- Ryan Blaney 30.14
- Denny Hamlin 30.20
- Joey Logano 30.20
- Brad Keselowski 30.26
- Kurt Busch 30.26
- Paul Menard 30.37
- Erik Jones 30.36
- William Byron 30.49
- Daniel Suarez 30.81
- Chase Elliott 30.84
- Jimmie Johnson 30.91
- Austin Dillon 30.97
* Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. did not make a 15-lap run.
Best 20-Lap Average Speed
- Kyle Larson 30.34
- Aric Almirola 30.35
- Clint Bowyer 30.38
- Ryan Blaney 30.41
- Brad Keselowski 30.49
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