The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars practiced for the final time at Martinsville Saturday. The series had a crazy schedule this week. Two practices were held Saturday and qualifying will be run Sunday before the race. Most of the cars spent the day in race trim preparing for the First Data 500.
Nine teams participated in a tire test at Martinsville on October 11th. These drivers included: Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing), Ty Dillon (Germain Racing), Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports), Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing).
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the final practice at Saturday…
The weather for final practice was partly cloudy and 65 degrees. The weather for the race Sunday is forecast to be cloudy and 48 degrees. The track is not as weather sensitive as other tracks but a nearly 20 degree change should make a difference. I expect the cars to have more grip.
* There is a 75% chance of rain Sunday morning. If qualifying gets washed out (NASCAR has little time to dry the track) the cars will be lined up by the owner’s points. Track position is everything at Martinsville so make sure you check out the potential starting lineup if they are unable to get the cars qualified.
Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Danica Patrick, Matt Kenseth and Chris Buescher were penalized 15 minutes in final practice for failing inspection at Kansas. Ty Dillon was penalized 30 minutes but he will compete in the Camping World Truck Series race so he will get more track time then the other drivers.
Goodyear brought the same tires compound to the track that the MENCS used in the April race. They expect the cool, concrete surface to lay down a lot of rubber and provide a lot of grip for the cars. Teams had 4 sets of tires for the 2 practice sessions and qualifying.
All of the cars used their race setup for most of the morning practice. In final practice there were some cars in qualifying setups while others continued to work on their race setup. Because of this I am focusing on the Morning Practice Speeds more this week.
Chase Elliott: Chase ran very well in the spring race at Martinsville but he was not happy with the way the car unloaded Saturday. The car was too tight getting into the corner. Half-way through final practice Chase went to the top of the speed chart. He said the changes made between the practice sessions really help the car.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie did not have the fastest car in practice but the No. 48 team always races better then they practice. Jimmie was 22nd in first practice and the team made wholesale changes to the rear end of the car. Jimmie made some long runs in final practice and he said, “Much better. It is pretty close to where we need it.” The team switched to qualifying trim at the end of practice.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior will be driving “The Grey Ghost” today. I love this paint scheme and he does too. The old Buddy Baker car. Junior said after first practice that he has a “solid racecar.” They made some long runs and Junior was quiet on the radio. That is usually a good thing.
Kasey Kahne: Kasey liked his car. He made 33 laps in the morning practice and he said, “The adjustments helped everywhere.” His crew chief told him to come back in and they will give him some more of what they did before.” Kahne went out and made two more long runs before they put the qualifying setup in the car. Kahne went to 2nd on the speed chart with the qualifying setup. Darian Grubb told MRN after practice, “The car was good on the mock qualifying run but we have a lot of work to do with our race trim. The car is way too tight.”
Kevin Harvick: Crew Chief Rodney Childers tweeted after the morning practice, “It is a little loose in the center but that is better than being tight in or loose off.” Harvick is another driver who usually races a lot better than where he practices. The No. 4 team usually works on long run speed. At the end of practice MRN talked to the car chief for the No. 4 car and he said, “We have no forward bite. The car is way too tight and Kevin cannot rotate through the turns.”
Clint Bowyer: Clint practiced driving the middle and diving to the bottom of the track in the morning practice. Crew Chief Mike Bugawravizt told Clint, “Your lap times are really good here, right at the top of the chart.” Bowyer made a 24-lap run and Clint said, “As long as we do not screw it up we should be parking this hotrod in Victory Lane tomorrow.” Bowyer looked very good this week.
Kurt Busch: Kurt had problems with the steering in the car. He said, “When I turn the wheel it does not react. I can barely drive it.” The team switched out the steering box and sent him back out. After a 8 lap run Kurt said, “It still feels like it is dragging bad.”
Danica Patrick: Danica looked pretty good in the morning practice (pretty good for her is top 15). She usually runs well at Martinsville because she stays out of trouble. Here care was a little loose on exit but she likes it that way. She came out in final practice and looked like a totally different car. She was 27th fastest with the 29th fastest 10-lap average. There are probably better choices this week.
Kyle Larson: Kyle looked like one of the drivers to beat after 3 long runs in the morning practice. He had the fastest speed and had the second-fastest 10-lap average speed. Kyle may be eliminated from the playoffs, but he is not going away any time soon.
Jamie McMurray: Jamie had a lot of speed this weekend. He was 8th fastest in the first practice and he was 4th fastest in final practice after two long runs. McMurray was happy with his car.
Brad Keselowski: Brad started the morning practice by following Martin Truex Jr. He then made some adjustments and followed Kyle Busch on the track. The No. 2 team wanted to see how their car compares to the No. 78 and No. 18 cars. He was working on his long run speed and he was 3rd fastest.
Joey Logano: Joey has been working on setups for the No. 2 car in the practice sessions at the previous playoff tracks but this week the No. 22 team is “doing their own thing.” It seems to be working. Logano was 2nd fastest early in the morning practice and 5th fastest after his 3rd long run. Logano spent the final practice making long runs. He ran around the 12th spot until he brought the car in and put on 4 new tires and made a mock qualifying run. He went to the top of the speed charts and ended practice with the fastest speed. I do not think this car is as fast as it looks. I would say top 10, but not top 5.
Ryan Blaney: Ryan rolled off the truck with the most speed Saturday. He had the fastest speed on the first run in the morning practice. He was one of the drivers who tested at Martinsville in early October.
Kyle Busch: No surprise… The No. 18 car unloaded with the most speed. Busch was 5th fastest after his 1st run and Adam Stevens made some adjustments. Busch went straight to the top of the chart. Busch said, “Feels really good. It gets in and rolls through the corner well but needs a little more speed on the exit.” Kyle told MRN radio that the test session in early October was one of the best test sessions the No. 18 team has ever had. He is very confident this week.
Matt Kenseth: Matt did not say much about his car in final practice. He made sat out a penalty so his track times were slower than the others who started with a green race track. You can never count out Kenseth at Martinsville.
Denny Hamlin: Denny had the fastest lap in the morning practice. He ran around the 8th spot for most of the practice and then went to the top of the speed chart when the No. 11 team put the qualifying setup in the car. In final practice Denny was practicing getting on pit road and he said, “We have a problem. The dash lights keep going out and the car is sputtering.” They brought in the No. 11 car to diagnose the problem.
Daniel Suarez: Daniel nearly hit Kevin Harvick while going into the garage. The No. 4 team was not too happy about it. Daniel was good but not great in final practice. He said the car was a little too tight on exit.
Martin Truex Jr.: The No. 78 team said their goal this week is not necessarily winning the race. They want to score Stage points and finish as high as possible without making any major mistakes. Truex does not need a win this week, just a solid run. He will have the No. 1 pit stall which is a HUGE advantage this week. Martin Truex Jr. had the fastest car on the 15-lap average speed chart.
Erik Jones: Erik did not practice in the morning practice. He had problems with his steering box. They replaced it but lost a lot of valuable track time for their rookie driver. Erik made a long run and said, “It is so loose I cannot hold onto it.” He got out of the car and talked with crew chief Chris Gale. They then went and talked to the No. 78 team to try and figure something out. Erik crashed the car half-way through final practice. Jones will go to a backup car but will not have to start at the back as long as the team uses the engine they started the week with.
Ryan Newman: Ryan made long runs in practice and was quiet on the radio. He was 2nd fastest after his second long run in the morning practice. Ryan made some long runs in final practice and he said, “It goes exactly where I want it too. I cannot ask for any more than that.” At the end of final practice Ryan said, “I really cannot tell the difference between old and new tires. The car just does not lose speed.”
Austin Dillon: Austin complained the car was too tight in the center and loose the rest of the way. The team made major changes between the practice sessions. In final practice Austin felt a vibration in his rear brakes. The team looked for the problem but could not find anything.
Paul Menard: Paul is once again on baby watch. Daniel Hemric made some laps in the car just in case Paul has to leave the racetrack. This makes Menard a risky pick for fantasy this week. Spotter Stevie Reeves told Paul, “Your lap times look a lot better than the morning practice.
Ty Dillon: Ty said, “Free in, heavy braking, free off, rolls in the middle really well.” He was 10th fastest after his 1st run. He will get some much needed experience while running the Camping World Truck Series race. The team made an adjustment to weight of the nose of the car and sent him back out.
AJ Allmendinger: AJ is a driver you cannot forget this week! This is statically his best track. He finished 6th here in April. AJ liked his car but wanted to work between the practice sessions on the brakes. AJ was 6th fastest after his 2nd run in the morning practice. AJ made three long runs in final practice. He said, “This is the best car we ever had here… that is for sure. Good job guys.”
Chris Buescher: Chris was working with AJ to figure out how to get around Martinsville. This is a rhythm track and Chris cannot seem to find the rhythm to make fast laps. He was 23rd fastest after 3 long runs.
Trevor Bayne: Trevor wheel-hopped going into the corner and almost got into the wall. The team brought the No. 6 car into the garage for some major adjustments.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Ricky was fairly pleased with the car. He made 54 laps in the morning practice. The No. 17 team was working on their long run speed. He said, “It takes a while to gain speed but I think we are fast once the tires get into the track.”
Aric Almirola: Aric was not happy with the car this week. He said it was. “Way too tight getting in and too tight getting out of the corner.” The No. 43 team brought him in for adjustments. Aric said, “The changes helped but still need more lateral grip.”
Landon Cassill: Landon complained the car, “Need some help on entry but center off is pretty good.”
David Ragan: David was happy with his car. He said, “I can work with it but need a little help on the exit.” The team made some changes and David said, “I feel that help the entry just a hair, but still need a little more on the exit.”
Michael McDowell: Michael looked pretty good early in the morning practice. He was 7th fastest after his first run. He said the car was “Loose getting off the corner, but pretty snug all around.”
Matt Dibenedetto: Matt had a problem with the splitter hitting the track. The team made some adjustments to the height and it got better.
Best 15-Lap Average: 1) Martin Truex Jr., 2) Jimmie Johnson, 3) Clint Bowyer, 4) Jamie McMurray, 5) Denny Hamlin, 6) Joey Logano, 7) AJ Allmendinger, 8) Kyle Busch, 9) Ryan Newman, 10) Daniel Suarez 11) Kyle Larson, 12) Chase Elliott, 13) Ryan Blaney, 14) Matt Kenseth, 15) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Cars that looked good in practice: Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson
Click here for Saturday Morning Practice Speeds
Click here for Final Practice Speeds
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