The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars practiced for the final time at Texas Saturday. The series was back to its regular schedule this week. The MENCS had one practice Friday (mostly qualifying runs), set the starting lineup Friday evening and had two practices to dial in their cars Saturday. Texas has a new surface and it has made for some great racing. It should be fun to watch Sunday.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the final practice at Saturday…
The weather for final practice was partly sunny and 85. The forecast for the race Sunday is sunny and 90. The track in practice Saturday should translate into similar speeds as the race on Sunday.
Paul Menard’s wife gave birth on Wednesday. Daniel Hemric practiced the car Friday and Saturday morning and qualified the No. 27 car. As a result Paul Menard will have to start from the back Sunday.
Goodyear is running the same tires used in the April race. Each team will receive 4 sets of tires for the 3 practice sessions and qualifying.
Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin served 30 minute penalties in both practices Saturday.
Chase Elliott: Chase told the media before Friday’s practice, “I am not going to answer any questions about what happened at Martinsville. I will let my car do the talking.” The No. 24 car unloaded with a lot of speed this week but he will have to start 34th because the team was unable to pass pre-qualifying inspection. Elliott is a MUST START in all games that award position differential points. In practice Saturday Chase was near the top of the speed chart. The No. 24 car had good balance but was “A little free on exit.”
Jimmie Johnson: The No. 48 car had problems with fuel pressure in Friday’s practice. The replaced the fuel cell. That did not fix the problem. They spent over an hour working on the car before Jimmie made any laps in Friday’s practice. The problem was diagnosed and the 48 was go-to-go for the final two practices. The team worked on the car and worked on it some more. Each time Jimmie picked up speed. By the end of final practice Jimmie was in the top 5.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Dale said before Friday’s practice, “This is one of my favorite tracks. I do not know why but I just always seem to run well here.” They put the same setup in the car as the No. 24, No. 48 and No. 5 and Dale said, “I just cannot drive the car like this. When I go into the corner it feels like it is going to wreck.” The team put the car back to where it was and he was 20th fastest.
Kasey Kahne: Kasey made some long runs in Saturday’s practices. He said the car felt good but the team said it was only 15th fastest. Crew chief Darian Grubb worked with crew chief Alan Gustafson to get a similar setup in the car as the No. 24 car.
Kevin Harvick: The No. 4 team worked on their long run speed. They used the same strategy at Chicago, Charlotte and Kansas and Harvick had the fastest car. He may not be at the top of the speed charts in every practice but the car should be one of the best when the green flag is waived Sunday. Harvick starts 3rd this week. He led 149 laps at Charlotte when he started from the 3rd position. Steve Latarte said, “No driver is running the bottom of the track as well as the No. 4 car. That looks like the car to beat.”
Clint Bowyer: The No. 14 team will be without their crew chief this week. The car failed to carry the tv equipment last week so there was a penalty (Yes, that is a rule). Bowyer started the weekend off slow but then the No. 14 team put the setup in the car that the No. 41 was running. Clint went from 20th to 10th on the speed chart. I expect this team to continue to work on the car and find speed.
Kurt Busch: Set a new track record when he won the pole for the race Sunday. Kurt really liked his car. They are using the same setup this week as the No. 4 car. The No. 41 team is focused on winning a race before the season is over and said, “We plan to pull every rabbit out of the hat to get it done.” The car was very good on the single lap but was looking for some more long run speed.
Kyle Larson: Kyle was quiet on the radio during the two practice sessions Saturday. His car was consistently in the top 10 so their car must be fast. Kyle will compete in the Xfinity Series race Saturday night so he will have an idea of how the tires will wear in the race. He is being overlooked this week and that makes the No. 42 car dangerous.
Jamie McMurray: Jamie made 2 long runs to begin practice. He was complaining about the wind pushing his car off the track. He was 24th fastest after his 3rd run.
Brad Keselowski: Before practice Friday Brad told MRN radio, “We need to find confidence and speed. Those are the two things we are lacking right now.” The No. 2 team could not find speed so they put the No. 21 setup in the car. It took some time for Brad to get used to the setup but he was making fast laps at the end of final practice.
Joey Logano: The No. 22 team is searching for speed but Logano is still a great choice this week. The No. 22 team failed to pass pre-qualifying inspection so Logano will start 36th Sunday. His car is still fast enough to move up 20 spots so he is a must start in games that award position differential points. Joey ran in the top 10 in final practice.
Ryan Blaney: Blaney had the fastest car in Friday’s practice and said it was too tight in qualifying. Blaney led 148 laps in the April race at Texas and he has a fast car this week.
Kyle Busch: Kyle is only racing for the win this week. He has his spot at Homestead wrapped up. The team worked at running the high-line in practice because that is the fastest way around Homestead. That made his lap times slower than they should be. They switched to their Texas setup and Kyle went to #5 on the speed chart. The No. 18 should be fast this week.
Matt Kenseth: Matt has a fast car this week but he will have to start 35th because the No. 20 team was unable to pass pre-qualifying inspection. Matt should be on all teams in games that award position differential points. On a side note… Matt told Nate Ryan from NBC Sports that he will not drive in MENCS in 2018.
Denny Hamlin: Denny had 1 hour of penalties between the two practices Saturday. His practice times were not as fast because the track was not green when he made his laps. Denny starts 2nd Sunday and he seemed to like his car.
Daniel Suarez: Daniel did not say much on the radio about his car. He was 3rd fastest after a long run in practice. He is doing his best to keep up with the No. 77 car and it is a good battle between the two rookies. Daniel ran in the top 12 in final practice and then the team put sticker tires on the car and the No. 19 went to the top of the speed chart.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin has a 2.8 average finishing position with 6 wins on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He is the driver to beat and he liked his car in practice. He said, “It is a little tight in the corner but good all the way around.” In final practice Martin made 1 long run and his car was smoking. They think there was a leak in the power steering line. They fixed it and sent Martin back out on the track. He was 3rd fastest after his 2nd long run.
Erik Jones: Erik has a fast car this week. He was fast in Friday’s practice and started Saturday’s practices at the top of the speed chart. Once again the No. 77 car has the same setup as the No. 78 car. Crew chief (Chris Gale) spent some time in the No. 78 garage talking to Cole Pearn about their race setups. Erik will be fast this week.
Ryan Newman: Ryan was fighting a tight racecar in practice. It was “tight in and tight on exit” according to Ryan. He made 3 long runs and said, “I do not know what to tell you. It is just way too tight.”
Austin Dillon: The No. 3 car had the same problems as his teammates… “Too tight, too tight, too tight!”
Paul Menard: Paul practiced the car for the first time in final practice. Daniel Hemric was in the car for the previous two practices and qualifying. Paul will start from the back Sunday since he did not qualify the car. Paul will be scored from the 21st position.
Ty Dillon: Ty made some long runs and said, “It feels like the car is totally out of the track on entry.” The team brought him in for some major adjustments. Ty said the adjustments helped but still need some more front bight on entry of the corner.
AJ Allmendinger: AJ said, “Not bad. Just a little tight getting into the corner but decent turning through the middle.” After his second long run AJ said, “The track is slicker then yesterday but the car runs a lot better.”
Chris Buescher: Chris made a long run and said, “The balance is pretty good. It turns in the middle good but feels like it is floating on the exit.” The team worked on wedge adjustments to get the car more into the track. Chris was top 20 fast. This is the home track for Chris and he always runs well here.
Trevor Bayne: The No. 6 team failed to pass pre-qualifying inspection so Trevor will start 37th Sunday. His car has top-25 speed so he should be able to move up 15-20 spots in the race. He is a good choice in games that award position differential points. He ran in the top 15 in final practice.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: The No. 17 team brought a fast car to the track this week. Ricky was 7th fastest in Friday’s practice and backed it up with a 12th-place qualifying position. The car was too tight in Saturday’s practice sessions. Stenhouse ran between 16th – 20th in the sessions. That is about where I expect him to finish.
Aric Almirola: Aric made a long run and said, “We are still lacking overall grip.” Aric made another long run and said, “Entry is really good, free all the way around. Not bad. Not bad.”
Landon Cassill: Landon made an 8-lap run to start practice Friday and he said, “This is the best we have unloaded all year long. I can really drive it hard into the corner and get out really good too.”
David Ragan: In the morning practice Saturday David said, “It feels OK. I think it has more speed but I cannot seem to find where the car works the best.” The team made some major changes to the car between the practice sessions. David made some long runs and said, “The longer I run the loser it gets. At the end of the run it is a handful to hang onto.”
Michael McDowell: Michael said. “It is a little tight rolling through 2 but pretty good everywhere else.” Between practice sessions Saturday the No. 95 team made a rear left toe change. Michael said the car felt a lot better. The team worked on the height adjustment to get the car into the track more. Overall Michael was happy with the car.
Matt Dibenedetto: Matt made a lot of short runs and said, “We are pretty good in 1 and 2 but horrible in 3 and 4.”
Cars that looked good in practice: Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney
Click here for Friday Afternoon Practice Speeds
Click here for Saturday Morning Practice Speeds
Click here for Final Practice Speeds
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