The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars practiced for the first time at Charlotte Motor Speedway Thursday. The Cup Series has a unique schedule this week. They practiced today and they will have the day off on Friday. There will be two more practices Saturday and I will post my Garage Talk Notes for the final practice.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the first practice at Charlotte…
Charlotte Motor Speedway threw a curveball at the teams this week when they decided to apply a “traction compound” at the top of the track to enhance the racing. Most of the teams set their cars up to run the bottom of the track. It will be interesting to see how the adhesive affects the cars in practice and qualifying tonight.
Jimmy Makar (President of Racing Operations for Joe Gibbs Racing) said on SiriusXM NASCAR Channel that he is concerned about how the Stage racing will affect the engines Sunday night. Drivers will be required to drive the engines harder to stay up front for 600 miles. He was concerned that some team’s engines will not make it 600 miles Sunday night.
Elliott Sadler was originally scheduled to drive the No. 7 car for Tommy Baldwin Racing. The team made a late week change and J.J. Yeley will now be behind the wheel.
There was a lot of rain over night in Concord, N.C. but the clouds moved out and the sun shined in the first practice.
Chase Elliott: Elliott said the car is loose getting into the corner. He was 17th fastest at the time.
Jimmie Johnson: The No. 48 team was working more on comfort and drivability than speed. Jimmie was 16th fastest after his first run. Jimmie walked over to Earnhardt’s car to try and help Junior. The No. 48 team seems to be satisfied with their car. They went to 2nd fastest at the end of practice.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior was asked before practice how he prepares for the Coca-Cola 600. He said, “I usually drink less beer during the week.” After his first run Earnhardt said the car was too tight. They brought it in for repairs. There are few words I can repeat here that Junior said about his car. He is obviously not happy.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne said the car feels pretty good but needs a little more speed. The No. 5 car was 5th on the leaderboard at the time.
Kevin Harvick: As normal Harvick sat out the first 15 minutes of practice. When he made his first run he went to the top of the leaderboard with the fastest lap. Harvick is working on qualifying speed. The team made some adjustments and he went back to the top of the leaderboard over Kyle Busch.
Clint Bowyer: The No. 14 team will be in the same car they had for the NASCAR All-Star race. They are only working on qualifying runs today. After his qualifying run Bowyer asked, “Can we use this car every week…wow!!” He was 3rd fastest. Bowyer went out for another run and scraped the wall. It looked like cosmetic damage. Clint was in the garage doing some body work on the car. He was a boy fabricator before he got his job as a driver.
Kurt Busch: Kurt said the car rolls a lot better through the center of the corner than it did last week. He was happy with the car. Busch was #3 on the leaderboard at the time.
Danica Patrick: “Way to free on entry” Danica says after her first run in practice.
Kyle Larson: Larson liked his car. He was 8th fastest after his first run. The team reminded him on the radio, “I know you want to go up to the top and play in the VHT but we need to work on qualifying trim bud.” Larson went to the top of the speed chart after some later practice adjustments. Larson got into the wall pretty good at the end of practice. They will decide before qualifying if they will go to a backup car.
Jamie McMurray: After 2 runs McMurray walked down to Larson’s garage to talk to him about his car and how Larson is driving the track. McMurray was 17th fastest and looking for some speed. After talking to Larson McMurray went to 6th fastest on the leaderboard.
Brad Keselowski: Brad was complaining about the wind on the radio. He said one lap it felt really good and the next lap a gust of wind hit the car and really freed him up.
Joey Logano: Logano was in race trim for most of the practice. The No. 22 team said the car was so bad in the All-Star Race that they wanted to bring a completely different setup for the Coca-Cola 600. They worked on race trim to dial it in. Logano ran over a beer can 30 minutes into practice.
Ryan Blaney: The No. 21 team said they are not going to practice driving the top of the track where the “grip strip” is until Saturday’s last practice. The team was focusing on qualifying today so there was no need to “play in the sticky stuff”.
Kyle Busch: Kyle said, “It feels better than last week, just a little loose but I can work with it.” He was 4th fastest at the time. The team made some adjustments and he went to the top of the leaderboard.
Matt Kenseth: Kenseth was the first driver to go out. He did not comment about his car but the team said they were going to make an air pressure adjustment and send him back out.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin said, “Loose, loose, loose…” after his qualifying run. They brought it in for adjustments. He was 18th fastest at the time. The No. 11 team made some more adjustments and Hamlin went to the top of the leaderboard.
Daniel Suarez: The team wanted to wait 15 minutes for some rubber to be laid down before they made any runs in practice. Suarez worked on qualifying and communicating with the team so they knew what he wanted in the car. The No. 19 car made some adjustments and Suarez went to 10th on the leaderboard.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex did not look as fast as he did last year in this race. He was 19th fastest after his first qualifying run. The car team is searching for speed. The team said they brought the setup from last year and it just is not working this year. They made some major changes to the car (similar to what they had at Kansas). The new setup moved Truex to 7th fastest.
Erik Jones: Jones was too loose in practice. They brought him in to tighten up the No. 77 car. The team taped up the front of the car and sent him out for a qualifying run and he went to the top of the speed chart.
Austin Dillon: Dillon was the first car to run the top of the track in the grip strip. He wanted to see how it affected the car. Dillon made a qualifying run and said, “Turns 1 and 2 are near perfect. We just need a little more rotation in 3 and 4.” The No. 3 car was 8th fastest at the time.
Ryan Newman: Newman said, “This may be our best car of the year.” He was 2nd fastest at the time.
Paul Menard: Menard made and early run and said the car felt pretty good. He went to the top of the leaderboard.
Ty Dillon: Dillon sat out the first 15 minutes of practice to watch the other cars. After he made his first run he said it was not bad but a little tight in corners 3 and 4. Dillon said the back of the car keeps sliding out as he enters the corners. The team made some air pressure adjustments.
AJ Allmendinger: AJ went out to just “feel out the car.”He said it is definitely better than last week. Allmendinger made another run and said, “Not bad there.” He team replied, “Yeah man, we’re P2.” AJ was lobbying to run the road course this week.
Chris Buescher: There car was a little tight but Buescher thinks it is close. He has a cool Cars movie paint scheme.
Trevor Bayne: Bayne was in qualifying trim for this practice. He said his car is not bad but the wind is really bad.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse sat ontop of the hauler watching the first 20 minutes of practice.
Regan Smith: He was in qualifying trim and went to 5th on the leaderboard at the begging of practice. At the end of practice Smith said, “We made some gains. We will be OK.”
Landon Cassill: Cassill said, “It is loose but loose is fast. We can work with this.”
David Ragan: David said, “It is way too twiggity.” I am not sure what that means but it is probably not good.
Michael McDowell: After his first run McDowell said, “Money right there!! Wow, we have something this week.”
Cars that looked good in practice: Stewart-Haas Racing Cars (Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch), Joe Gibbs Racing cars (Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth) *Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman.
*Got into the wall at the end of practice.
Here are the speeds for the final practice session: Charlotte Practice Speeds
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