The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete at Texas Motor Speedway this week. NASCAR is back to their regular schedule this week. There was one practice Friday afternoon, qualifying Friday evening and two practices Saturday. The MENCS teams had plenty of time to get their cars dialed in for the race Sunday.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the practices at Texas…
The weather for the final practice Saturday was cloudy and 32 degrees. The temperatures for the race Sunday are scheduled to be sunny and 60. The track will be a lot hotter but it is a new track. The surface is very heat sensitive so many of the teams said that practice times on Saturday did not really matter. They will be using their notes from practices in previous seasons.
NASCAR teams received 4 sets of tires for the three practice sessions and one set to qualify and start the race on. The MENCS and Xfinity Series will run the same tire this week. It is the same tire used in the test session at Texas in January. Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray and Ty Dillon will compete in both races. They should have an edge on Sunday because they will get to see how the tires wear during the race.
Texas Motor Speedway has run the Tire Dragon on the track for a week to try and add more racing grooves to the track. There should be plenty of track to race on by race time Sunday.
Four drivers competed in a tire test at Texas in January (Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola). The track tempatures will be a lot different this week, but these drivers should have learned a little something to help them this week.
Ryan Newman served a 15-minute penalty in final practice for failing inspection twice.
Chase Elliott: Elliott participated in the tire test at Texas in January. Elliott finished 10th (Atlanta) and 34th (Las Vegas) in his two races on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Elliott has a car that is a lot faster than his starting position. He admitted he left some speed in the car in qualifying because he was expecting to improve in rounds 2 and 3. Elliott is a great pick in position differential games. The No. 9 car is the only Hendrick Motorsports car that does not have the No. 48 setup. The team is using a setup that Elliott liked at Texas last year when he finished 8th.
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has 7 wins at Texas, including this race last year. The No. 48 team has only been average on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Johnson finished 27th at Atlanta and 12th at Las Vegas. The No. 48 team was happy with their car. Johnson said, “The grip is ridiculous out here. I am not sure we will have this tomorrow. The car feels pretty snug, just need a little more throttle on exit, but we are close.”
Alex Bowman: Bowman ran the No. 88 car at Texas in 2016. He qualified 16th and finished 13th. Bowman finished 20th at Atlanta and 16th at Las Vegas. Bowman did not think the car was too bad. He said, “It rolls in and off the corners really well. I just need a little help with tightness in the center.”
William Byron: This will be Byron’s first race in the MENCS at Texas. He finished 18th at Atlanta and 27th at Las Vegas this season. The No. 24 team had a problem with their motor sputtering, so they changed the engine. Byron will start in the back Sunday. The car with the new engine was fast. Byron should score a lot of position differential points this week and be a great pick for DFS and Slingshot Auto Racing Contest.
Kyle Larson: Texas ranks as the 18th-best track for Larson. He finished 2nd in this race last year and 37th in the November race at Texas. Larson was not too happy with his car. He said, “The handling starts off good but it gets tighter as we get deeper into the run.” Larson loves a loose race car. The team told him, “Do not worry about it, the hotter track will free it up a lot tomorrow.”
Jamie McMurray: Will be competing in the Xfinity Series race Saturday. McMurray is off to a slow start this season so hopefully the extra track time helps him Sunday. He finished 19th at Atlanta and 36th at Las Vegas so he has not been very good on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. McMurray had the same problem as his teammate (Kyle Larson). The car was too tight. They work to free it up, but the No. 1 car lacked overall speed.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick will be competing in the Xfinity Series race Saturday. As if he needs any help, the extra track time should help him figure out how the tires wear in the race. Harvick won the last race at Texas. He was consistently at the top of the speed charts in the practices. Harvick starts 2nd and he really liked his car in practice.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer will have a lot of momentum heading into Texas after his win at Martinsville. If he sobered up, he should be a decent pick. Bowyer has the exact same setup as Kevin Harvick this week. Bowyer was really excited about this race. He said the car handles as well as any car he has ever drove.
Kurt Busch: Busch has run well at Texas since he joined Stewart-Has Racing. His average finishing position is 11th. He won the pole and finished 8th in the last race at Texas. Busch has the same car this week that he drove in at Texas in November.
Aric Almirola: Almirola has been the biggest surprise in Fantasy NASCAR this season. He finished 13th at Atlanta and 10th at Las Vegas. He has been very good on the 1.5-mile tracks. The No. 10 team will have the same setup as Kevin Harvick this week. They started out with a different setup but the No. 4 car setup works the best. Almirola was consistently in the top 10.
Brad Keselowski: Keselowski finished both races at Texas in the top 6 last year. He finished both races on the 1.5-mile tracks in the top 6 this season (finished 2nd at Atlanta and 6th at Las Vegas). Keselowski is another driver who should have a faster car then where he qualified. Keseowski said he saved some speed because he was expecting to run rounds 2 and 3. Keselowski will start 11th and has a top 7 (at least) car.)
Joey Logano: Logano has a series-best average finishing position (3.3) and the 3rd-best driver ranking in the last 4 races at Texas. Logano also finished both races on 1.5-mile tracks this season in the top 7. Logano was the only driver who used the Friday practice to work in race trim. They expected the temps on Friday to be closer to the temps on Sunday. This could be a huge advantage for the No. 22 team.
Ryan Blaney: Blaney participated in the tire test at Texas in January and he will compete in the Xfinity Series Saturday. No driver will have more track time at Texas then Blaney. He led the most laps in this race last year and finished 12th. Blaney was in the top 10 in all of the practices and he starts 4th Sunday. The No. 12 will use the notes from Joey Logano to help them set up their car for the race Sunday.
Paul Menard: Texas is the worst track for Menard. He has an average finishing position of 29th in the last 4 races at the track. Menard is driving the car that Ryan Blaney led a 148 laps with at Texas last year. Menard was not happy that qualifying was only one round. He starts 19th and said he thinks his car has top-10 speed. Menard will be a good sleeper pick in DFS this week.
Kyle Busch: Busch comes into the race at Texas red hot. He has finished 2nd, 3rd, 2nd and 2nd in his last 4 races. He has two wins at Texas and both came in the spring race (2013 and 2016). Busch was complaining that the front of the car would not turn in the corners. Busch was one of the first cars on the track in the Saturday morning practice. They made a lot of adjustments over night and they think the car is a lot closer to where it needs to be.
Erik Jones: Jones has 3 career races at Texas and finished 2 of them in the top 12. He has been pretty good on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 11th at Atlanta and 8th at Las Vegas. Jones was not happy with the car on Friday but he went out Saturday morning and posted the fastest time. The car is a lot faster than where they qualified. Jones should score many position differential points in Fantasy NASCAR this week.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin started on the front row and finished 2nd in the last race at Texas. He has been up and down on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Hamlin finished 4th at Atlanta and 17th at Las Vegas. The No. 11 car was running extremely low tire pressure in practice. The back tires smoked until he got 4 to 5 laps into the run. It seemed to make speed in the car, but he was the only car with tire pressures this low. Hamlin was 2nd fastest in the Morning practice Saturday.
Daniel Suarez: Suarez has only been average in his career at Texas. He has also struggled on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Suarez finished 15th at Atlanta and 26th at Las Vegas. Suarez made a long run in the morning practice Saturday. The team put the setup used by Denny Hamlin and Suarez posted the fastest speed. It looks like the No. 11 and No. 19 will be using the same setup in the race Sunday. Both cars are close on the speed chart.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex competed in the tire test at Texas in January. He has a series-high 125.9 driver ranking and has led a series-high 363 laps in the last 4 races at Texas. The No. 78 team had 3 setups for their car. They made 8-10 laps runs with each setup and then decided to use the one that worked best. No crew chief in the garage is as good at adjusting to track conditions as Cole Pearn.
Ryan Newman: Texas ranks as the 19th-best track for Newman. He finished both races outside the top 20 last year. He did finish 11th at Las Vegas so there is hope for the No. 31 team. After a long run Newman told his team, “The car drivers really well but I am afraid I am not close enough to the edge. We need to find more speed.” He was 17th-fastest at the time.
Austin Dillon: Dillon finished 13th in the last race at Texas and he finished in the top 14 in both races on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Dillon made several long runs. He said, “The handling is really good. We just need to find more speed.” Dillon was 14th fastest at the time.
Ty Dillon: Dillon will compete in the Xfinity Series race Saturday. He will need the extra seat time because he has really struggled on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Dillon finished 26th at Atlanta and 24th at Las Vegas. Dillon said after Friday’s practice that the No. 13 team worked hard over the bye week and found something which should give their car more speed. His car was between 20th and 25th fastest in the Saturday practice sessions.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne has only been average on the 1.5-mile tracks with his new team this season. Kahne finished 21st at Atlanta and 19th at Las Vegas. Kahne was not happy that qualifying was only 1 round. He said, “Our car has a lot more speed then what we posted in qualifying.” Kahne starts 28th and should score 8-10 position differential points this week. He consistently ran between 17th -20th in practice.
AJ Allmendinger: The No. 47 car has had no speed on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Allmendinger finished 29th at Atlanta and 30th at Las Vegas. Allmendinger reported his car was “Tight into 1 and 2 and snapping off the corner in 3 and 4.” They made some adjustments and Allmendinger said, “We are a lot closer now.”
Chris Buescher: Buescher is a Texas native and he likes to run at his home track. He has finished his three races at the track in the top 21. He also ran well at Las Vegas this season. Buescher qualified 28th and finished 15th. Buescher bounced off the wall in qualifying but the team was able to fix the car and Buescher qualified 15th. It does not seem to have any structural damage to the car.
Darrell Wallace Jr.: Wallace has really sucked since his 2nd-place finish in the Daytona 500. His average finishing position since that race is 27th. This will be the first race for Wallace in the MENCS at Texas. The team must have found some speed over the bye week. Wallace qualified 15th and looked decent in practice.
Trevor Bayne: Texas ranks as the 13th-best track for Bayne. He has not been very good on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 35th at Atlanta and 20th at Las Vegas. Bayne was fighting loose racecar in practice. He said, “The backend feels like it steps out on entry and exit. It is really hard to hold onto.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has finished his last 4 races at Texas in the top 16. He has run well on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 16th at Atlanta and 14th at Las Vegas. Stenhouse made a long run in the morning practice and he slapped the wall. They will go to a backup car and start from the rear and be scored from the 26th starting spot in Fantasy NASCAR. This is the 3rd car Stenhouse has wrecked in practices this season. He usually finishes between 18th – 22nd in the backup car.
David Ragan: Ragan finished 23rd in both races on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Ragan was fighting a loose race car. He almost got into the wall in the Saturday morning practice. The team worked to tighten up his car.
Michael McDowell: McDowell has really struggled on the 1.5-mile tracks with his new team this year. McDowell finished 24th at Atlanta and 37th at Las Vegas. McDowell was fighting a loose car. He said, “It is really free on entry. Not bad through the middle but free on exit.”
Matt Dibenedetto: Dibenedetto had his best race of the season at Las Vegas this season. He qualified 32nd and finished 22nd. Dibenedetto was not too happy with his car. He said, “It is tight everywhere. I can barely hold onto it on the front stretch.” The made major changes between the practice sessions. On his last run Dibenedetto said, “Started off snug, got loose as I made more laps. Mainly loose in, but the stability is closer to where we need to be.”
Cars that looked good in practice: All Stewart-Haas Racing Cars (Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola), Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing Cars (Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez), Team Penske (Brad Keseslowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney).
Good Sleeper Picks: Jimmie Johnson, William Byron, Austin Dillon, Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne
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