MENCS: Final Practice Garage Talk Notes Sonoma


The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars practiced for the final time at Sonoma Raceway Friday. The series did not have their normal schedule this week. There were two practices Friday and qualifying will be Saturday afternoon.

The words for the weekend are “wheel hop” and “fuel mileage”. The cars that can keep all four tires on the track will make fast laps in the race Sunday. It will also be important to stretch the fuel mileage in the car so the team can run the race with the least amount of pit stops possible.

Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the final practice at Sonoma…


Track Notes

The weather was sunny and 84 degrees at practice today. Race temperatures for Sunday are forecasted to be sunny and 78. Track temperature does not affect the road course as much as it affects the oval tracks.

The fastest cars in the 1st practice were: 1. Martin Truex Jr., 2. Denny Hamlin, 3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 4. Clint Bowyer, 5. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 6. Chris Buescher, 7. AJ Allmendinger, 8. Chase Elliott, 9. Kyle Busch, 10. Joey Logano

One of the common problems in the garage was with brakes. Teams were trying to manage their brakes in the practice sessions.

Matt Kenseth blew had engine failure in the 1st practice.

Final practice was scheduled to be 85 minutes but it was red flagged for 20 minutes because of Erik Jones wreck and Cole Whitt putting oil on the track. NASCAR decided to extend practice by 5 minutes.


Driver Notes

Chase Elliott: Chase spun out at the end of the 1st practice. No damage to the car though. Chase spent most of the practice in qualifying trim. He was 12th after his first run and went to 6th after the team made some adjustments. Chase destroyed his car at the end of practice. He spun out and hit hard. The No. 24 team will go to a backup car for Sunday. They did not get time to practice the backup car.

Jimmie Johnson: Chad Knuas had his laptop with all of his notes stolen from his rental car. The No. 48 is going off of memory this weekend until they find the laptop. Jimmie worked on qualifying trim because the team wanted to start further up front than they have been. Jimmie was 11th fastest after his qualifying runs.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior has been fast all weekend. He ran in the top 5 for most of the 1st practice and in the top 10 for most of the 2nd practice. He has never led a lap at Sonoma but he should be top 10 Sunday. He was pretty happy with his car. Junior had problems with the car popping out of gear (like Pocono) so the team will tighten the springs in the shifter. He liked his car. Junior went to 2nd fastest after his qualifying run.

Kasey Kahne: Kasey started out in qualifying trim. He said the car was a little loose. Kasey was 12th fastest at the time.

Kevin Harvick: Kevin will be running the K&N Series race Saturday for some extra road course practice. Kevin said, “The car has a lot of speed when I hit my marks. I think we can be competitive if I do not screw it up.”

Clint Bowyer: Clint wanted to start the practice in qualifying setup but there were so many cars on the track he could not get out. He made 2 qualifying runs and one race trim run. Clint was 5th fastest after his qualifying run. Clint made some race runs at the end of practice and said, “The rear grip is really good. The nose stays in the course. The balance feels pretty snug. I think we should be good.”

Kurt Busch: Between practices the No. 41 team changed the gears in the car. Kurt needed a lower gear to get more speed out of the corners. Kurt was 3rd fastest after his qualifying run. After his race trim run Kurt said, “I like the car goes where I want it to go.”

Danica Patrick: This is actually a good week to take Danica in Fantasy Live and DraftKings. She is cheap and her road course racing skills should get her inside the top 20. She was 7th fastest after her qualifying run. Usually Danica complains about her car, but she seems to be pretty happy this week.

Kyle Larson: Larson like his car. He said, “It is free through the turns but I can get through most of the track faster that way. I think we should leave it how it is.” Larson was fastest on the board at the time. The No. 42 team switched to race trim and his time was still 4th fastest, even when the other cars were in qualifying trim.

Jamie McMurray: The No. 1 team will change their brakes after practice because last year McMurray wore his brakes out in practice and had no brakes when the race started Sunday. The No. 42 team will do the same. Jamie made a mock qualifying run and went to 2nd fastest on the speed chart.

Brad Keselowski: Paul Wolfe is at home because his wife just had a baby. Brian Wilson will serve as the crew chief. This could hurt the strategy for the No. 2 team. Brad had a problem with the car shutting off on the track in the 1st practice. The team fixed the problem between practices. Brad worked in race trim and complained about wheel hopping and lack of speed in the car.

Joey Logano: Joey really used the curbs to turn the car in practice. His fenders were all bent in from bouncing off the curbs but the car should be fine.

Ryan Blaney: Ryan will run the K&N Series race Saturday for some extra practice. Blaney said, “The car is a lot different than what it felt in the first practice. The car is pretty good but the driver is pretty bad. I guess I will work some more on the driver.”

Kyle Busch: Spent a lot of time practicing pit road speed in the 1st practice. The team told Kyle, “Larson ran a 75.89 in qualifying trim and you ran a 77.15 in qualifying trim. Busch replied, “I quit!”The No. 18 team switched to race trim and Busch had lap times that did not fall off as much as other cars. Kyle looked faster than his lap times because cars kept getting on track and messing up his lap times. He finally got a clean lap in the end of practice and Kyle went to 2nd fastest on the speed chart.

Matt Kenseth: The oil pump belt fell off and the engine blew on the No. 20 car in the 1st practice.

Denny Hamlin: Denny started practice in race trim and told the team, “It is really smooth. We need a little more back grip like we had last year but we are really close.”

Daniel Suarez: Daniel will run the K&N Series race Saturday for some extra practice. The No. 19 team told Daniel to just make laps and get conferrable with the car. At the end of practice the team put the qualifying setup in the car. Daniel went to 25th fastest.

Martin Truex Jr.: Martin had the fastest lap and looked like he had the best car in the 1st practice. The No. 78 started practice in race trim. Martin looked very smooth in practice. He was 7th fastest in race trim and most everyone else in the top 10 was in qualifying trim.

Erik Jones: Erik overdrove the turn early in practice and crashed his car into the tires. The No. 77 team will go to a backup car. Jones said, “I just wheel hopped. It would be nice to be able to test at these tracks since I have no experience here.” Jones got the backup car on the track with 15 minutes left in practice. The team only had time to shake down the car and make sure everything was OK.

Austin Dillon: Austin spent a lot of time in the dirt in the first practice (not good). In 2nd practice Austin said, “It feels a lot better grip wise. I will work on the driving part.” The team made a shock adjustment and put the qualifying setup in the car. Austin went to 11th fastest on the speed chart.

Ryan Newman: Ryan said the car was wheel hopping after his first run. The No. 31 team made a shock adjustment and Ryan said, “Much better.” The team put the qualifying trim in the car and Newman went to 8th on the speed chart.

Paul Menard: Paul said the balance is a lot better than it was in first practice. He was 16th fastest at the time. Paul is a good sleeper pick this week.

Ty Dillon: Ty spun out in the 1st practice but did not hurt the car. The team kept Ty in race trim in final practice. They said it was more important to get him some experience making laps than it was to worry about starting up front. Ty was 27th fastest at the time.

AJ Allmendinger: Has started on the front row for the past 3 races at Sonoma. The No. 47 car had problems getting out of 2nd gear and the digital dash was cutting out in the 1st practice. The team fixed the problems for the second practice. AJ said, “I need some help keeping the car in the track (keep the tires on the track)”. AJ said, “This is the best car I ever had at Sonoma.”

Chris Buescher: Buescher said he talked with Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger about driving the road courses. Buescher won a road course race in the Xfinity Series at Mid-Ohio. He was faster than Allmendinger in the 1st practice. Chris ran the final practice in race trim. The team was working on their long run speed. Chris was 11th fastest at the time. He is a good pick for DraftKings this week if he qualifies outside the top 15.

Trevor Bayne: Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have been practicing road course racing for the past month in the Ford simulator. Trevor ran in the top 10 in the 1st practice and ran in top 15 in final practice. Trevor was 7th fastest after his qualifying run.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Ricky must have learned something in the simulator. He was top 5 fast in first practice and 17th fastest in race trim in final practice. The team planned to make a mock qualifying run.

Billy Johnson: Johnson will be in the No. 43 car this week. He has never competed in a MENCS race but he has competed in 5 Xfinity Series races (4 of them on road courses). His average finishing position in the Xfinity Series is 23.5. He spun out in the 1st practice. Billy was sliding all over the track in the last practice. He was top 20 fast but he used most of the track to get that speed. It will be much harder for the rookie in traffic Sunday.

Boris Said: The team has a Hendrick Motorsports chassis and a HMS engine. Boris said his goal this week is to finish inside the top 20.

Landon Cassill: Landon said the car would not stay in the track. He was 31st after his qualifying run. Landon is not a good pick this week.

David Ragan: David said the car feels pretty good but he is having a hard time hitting his marks.

Michael McDowell: Michael likes his car. He said. “It is a lot faster than what we had in the past.” The No. 95 team has a closer alliance with Richard Childress Racing this season. Michael was in race trim and was 12th fastest on the board. The team liked the balance in the car. McDowell was eating a sandwich with 10 minutes left in practice. That is a good sign.

Cole Whitt: Oil was leaking out of the No. 72 car and Whitt spun out into the grass early in practice.

Alan Day: Allen was the surprise of the final practice. He is driving the No. 23 car for BK Racing this week. Allen worked on qualifying and he was 11th fastest. He said he learned how to drive the track in the I-racing game.


Cars that looked good in practice: Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., AJ Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jamie McMurray

*I would be surprised if the winner did not come from this list of drivers.


Here are the speeds for the final practice session: Sonoma Practice Speeds


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