The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars practiced for the final time at Kentucky Friday. The series did not have their normal schedule this week. There were two practices Friday and qualifying will be Friday night.
After a week on a road course and a week at the Superspeedway, the MENCS is back to normal racing on a 1.5-mile track. The practices today mean more than what they did the previous two weeks because downforce was not as important. We should be able to obtain a good read on who has a fast car by analyzing the practice speeds and the Garage Talk this week.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the final practice at Kentucky…
The weather was partly cloudy and 83 degrees at practice today. Race temperatures for Saturday night are forecasted to be sunny and 80 degrees. So the practice speeds should translate into race speed this week (but it may take 20 laps to put the rubber back on the track if there is rain this evening.
Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones participated in the tire test at Kentucky in May. Usually drivers who test unload with a lot of speed at the track and have an advantage over the competition.
Kyle Busch will compete in the Camping World Truck Series, Xfinity Series and MENCS races this weekend at Kentucky. He should know how the tires wear and where the grip is on the track better than any other driver this week.
Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard and Ty Dillon will compete in both the Xfinity Series and the MENCS races this weekend. I look for each of these drivers to run well Saturday night.
Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth were held out of the first 30 minutes of practice for failing inspection multiple times at Daytona.
Brad Keselowski, Trevor Bayne, Kurt Busch, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., Cole Whitt and Ryan Sieg were held out of the first 15 minutes of practice for failing one inspection at Daytona.
NASCAR made a rule change to the splitter rules. The splitter “Must be” absolutely flat. Joe Gibbs Racing said this change has really helped their team gain speed.
Morning Practice Notes
Most of the teams used the 2-hour morning practice as a test session. They tried new spring packages, adjusting the track bar and air-pressure adjustments so the car would be dialed in for the final practice.
Many drivers worked on their pit road speed in the 1st practice. The race at Kentucky had the most pit road penalties last year so teams are trying to correct the mistakes they made in 2016.
It was a pretty uneventful morning practice. The cars that looked the best were Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick.
Jamie McMurray was fastest in the morning practice. Kyle Busch had the best 10-lap average speed.
Ryan Newman will go to a backup car after mechanical issues in the 1st practice.
Chase Elliott: Chase went out and made a 3 lap run. He said the car was close but a little to tight. The team worked to free him up and the No. 24 car went to the top of the speed chart.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie started practice with a 6 lap run. He told Chad Knaus that the adjustments made between the practice sessions really helped the car. Jimmie liked the way the car felt so the team worked on a long run to get a gauge of the fuel millage (He made a 26 lap run and Chad said, “The car is very good, bring it in.” After 31 race trim laps, the team put the qualifying trim in the car and Jimmie went to #1 on the speed chart. This is one of the tracks Jimmie has not won at. He looks he has a top 3 car this week.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt hated his car in 1st practice. He said it was barely drivable. Junior started out with a 6 lap run and said, “No lateral trust. I lose the backend in each corner.” He almost spun out on his long run. Junior said, “If I put any more front brakes into it I will blow up the front rotors. I just do not know what to tell you.” They brought him in to change the shocks.
Kasey Kahne: Kasey went out and made a 15 lap run. He said. “It gets through 1 and 2 good but it is really tight in turn 3.” Kasey was 11th fastest at the time. Kasey said the car starts off fast but gets tighter and tighter after each lap.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin went out and made a 3 lap run and told Rodney Childers, “It is still too loose. Not as bad as it was, but we need to tighten the front up a bit.” Kevin made a long run and brought the car to the garage. Rodney told Kevin on the radio, “We are wearing out the splitter. I am going to have to raise it up.” That will probably take away some of their speed. He was 15th fastest at the time.
Clint Bowyer: This is not the best track for Clint but he said, “Well I never had a hotrod at this track like we have this week. It feels pretty good.” He was 9th fastest at the time. Clint had the best 10-lap average speed half-way through practice. The team put the qualifying setup in the car and Clint went to 2nd fastest. 166 races since his last win and Clint is more than motivated to get to Victory Lane.
Kurt Busch: Kurt said the car was loose in turns 1 and 2 and horrible in turn 3. The team worked to tighten him up. He was 12th fastest at the time. Kurt went back out and said, “We have turns 1 and 2 nailed down. Now we need to work a little bit on turn 3 and we will be fine.” Kurt went back out and said, “OK we got it now. Much better! I did not drive it all the way into turns 1 and 2 so we have a little more speed in it.” He was 10th fastest at the time.
Danica Patrick: Danica made a long run and said, “I am struggling in each corner. Check the tire pressure or something. It is hard to drive.”
Kyle Larson: Kyle was the 1st car on track. He made 1 lap and then worked on his pit road speed. Kyle made a long run to get a gauge of the fuel millage. He was happy with the speed that car has in it. Kyle was the 1st car to run the top of the track (surprised?). Many teams were asking how the No. 42 speed was at the top. Crew Chief Chad Johnston told Kyle, “You have the fastest car on the long runs. Keep it up bud.”
Jamie McMurray: The No. 1 was fastest in the 1st practice and the team was working on long runs in the final practice. Jamie said, “The car is driving me more than I am driving it. I turn the wheel and then see where it lands.” Jamie was fast though. He was 6th fastest in race trim.
Brad Keselowski: Brad made a 17 lap run to start practice. He said, “The handling is pretty good. We just need to work on speed.” Brad was 7th fastest at the time. Paul Wolfe told brad, “You lap times are comparable with the best cars on the track.” The No. 2 had some good long run speed.
Joey Logano: Joey started practice with a 4 lap run and brought the car back to the garage. He said, “It is a little snug.” The team worked to free him up. The car was lacking speed for most of the practice but jumped to 12th fastest at the end of final practice.
Ryan Blaney: Blaney started practice in race trim and the No. 21 car was 5th fastest in race trim. This car has been fast all day and Blaney is happy with it. Ryan said this track races like Texas. He started 2nd and finished 12th and led 30 laps at Texas.
Kyle Busch: Kyle said after the 1st practice that he thinks he has a car that can win Saturday night. The No. 18 car had the fastest 10-lap average speed in the 1st practice. The team put the qualifying setup in the car and Kyle was the fastest on the speed chart. Kyle made a long run and said, “I drove it really hard into turns 1 and 2 and felt pretty good but when I got to turn 3 it just plowed.”
Matt Kenseth: Matt made a qualifying run and he was 5th fastest. They brought him in for some adjustments and sent him out to work on long runs.
Denny Hamlin: When asked by PRN how the car is Denny said, “Fast! Really fast!” Denny is a good sleeper pick and good DraftKings pivot this week. He was 4th fastest early in practice.
Daniel Suarez: Daniel said, “The car is natural all around.” He started out in qualifying trim and then switched to race trim. Daniel was 11th fastest at the time.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin went out and made a qualifying run after serving his penalty. The car was 3rd fastest. He must have liked the car because the team spent the rest of the practice scuffing tires. They do this because scuff tires work better on a newly paved track and they wanted 6-8 sets for Saturday night.
Erik Jones: The team worked on their qualifying session since they had a penalty. The car has a lot of speed on short runs. Erik was 6th fastest. The team was then working on long run speed and tire falloff.
Ryan Newman: will go to a backup car after mechanical issues in the 1st practice. Ryan said, “We lost the oil pump in it.” After a half hour of work to get the engine in the car, Newman made some long runs. He said the car was way too loose. The team brought Ryan in to change the shocks.
Austin Dillon: Austin was working a long run and got really loose and almost spun out. They brought the No. 3 car in for some adjustments.
Paul Menard: Paul is using notes he gained from the Xfinity Series practice to help him in the cup car. After his 1st run he said, “A little tight in the center-off but I can work with it.”
Ty Dillon: The team was fighting a tight race car. They worked to free him up but the problem continued. Ty was 24th fastest. They changed the shocks and sent him back out. Ty made a long run and said, “It drives really good at the bottom of the track but needs some work at the top.”
AJ Allmendinger: The team changed everything but the driver between practices. AJ was very unhappy with the car. The team put the same setup as the No. 37 car and AJ said it was a little better.
Chris Buescher: Chris said, “The car is freer than it was. But we still need a little more. Buescher was 10th fastest at the time. The team made some changes and Chris said, “We are getting close. I can drive it where I want to now.”
Trevor Bayne: Trevor worked on qualifying and the car was 11th fastest. He said the car was a little loose but not bad.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Ricky has not been happy with the car all day. In the morning practice it was too tight. In the final practice Ricky said. “We made it worse.” The team brought the No. 17 car in to make some major adjustments. The car was fast in qualifying trim but too tight in turns 2 and 3 in race trim.
Bubba Wallace Jr.: If you have Bubba in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing this may be the week to use him. He liked the car and the No. 43 was fastest halfway through practice. He was in qualifying trim while others were in race trim, but the car had some speed in it.
Landon Cassill: Landon worked on qualifying runs and then switched to race trim. Landon said, “It turns like I want to.”
David Ragan: David was making mock qualifying runs. He was 13th fastest after his first run. David reported the car was too free.
Michael McDowell: Michael said, “The car has pretty good pace. I just need a little front grip around turn 3.” He was 16th fastest at the time.
Cars that looked good in practice: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Erik Jones.
Follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR