The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars practiced for the first time at Michigan International Speedway Friday. The race at Michigan comes down to handling. Drivers can run wide open all around the track since it has so much grip after the repave in 2012. Teams that can get their car to run the bottom, middle and top of the track will be up front Sunday.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the first practice at Michigan…
The weather was partly cloudy and 74 degrees at practice today. The chances of rain on Sunday are decreasing. Now the forecast is for partly cloudy skies and 80 degrees during the race. Track temperatures for today’s practice should be similar to what the teams will see on Sunday.
Teams were given four sets of tires for the two practices and qualifying.
Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones were penalized 15 minutes because they failed inspection twice at Pocono.
How important is qualifying at Michigan? Four of the last seven winners of the race started from the pole. Most teams worked on their qualifying setups today. ‘
Only 37 cars are in the field this week. The 51 car withdrew.
NASCAR ran the Tire Dragon on the track before practice to put down more rubber and give the drivers more grip.
* I heard a rumor this morning from a good source that I thought I would share… The silly season might start early. I heard that Ryan Blaney will move to Team Penske Racing in 2018, Paul Menard will fill the seat at Wood Brothers Racing and Ty Dillon will fill the seat at Richard Childress Racing. Just a rumor now, but it makes sense.
Chase Elliott: Chase finished both races at Michigan in second-place last year. Chase said the car has a lot of grip after his first race trim run. He was 14th fastest at the time. The No. 24 team put the qualifying setup in the car and Chase went to 3rd fastest on the speed chart. Chase said, “It is as good as what we had here last year.”
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie signed a 3 year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports before practice today. Chad Knaus said the No. 48 team would be in qualifying trim the entire practice. The team believes they need to improve their starting position in the race so they focused on that today. Jimmie said the car needs major adjustments halfway through practice. He was 11th fastest at the time. The team change shocks and Jimmie went to No. 1 on the speed chart.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Dale was one of the first cars out of the garage and he immediately went to the top of the speed chart. After his first run Dale said, “It is hard to find anything to complain about. It feels pretty comfortable.” The No. 88 team was 4th fastest in race trim.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne said Michigan is one of his favorite tracks. Kasey was 3rd fastest after his first run. Kasey made a qualifying run and reported the car was “floaty.” Not sure what that means.
Kevin Harvick: The No. 4 team brought the same car (chassis No. 429) they raced at Atlanta. Kevin led 292/325 laps with this car. Kevin started practice in race trim and then switched to qualifying trim. He reported the car was “Snappy loose.” He was 3rd fastest at the time.
Clint Bowyer: Clint said, “It keeps getting faster and faster with every lap. We have a hotrod boys!” He was fastest in practice after his first run.
Kurt Busch: The No. 41 team brought the same car (chassis No. 993) they raced at Texas. Kurt finished 10th in this car in the Lone Star State. Kurt was a little loose on his first run and he needed a little help getting back to the throttle out of the corners. Kurt said the car felt better after the adjustments were made.
Kyle Larson: Kyle said the car was a little loose but he thinks it will tighten up as rubber is laid down. The No. 42 car was in race trim to start practice. Larson was 4th fastest after his first qualifying run. The team made some adjustments and he went to the top of the speed chart.
Jamie McMurray: McMurray did not like his car after their first run. The car was sliding up the track. The team made a shock change and sent him back out. The No. 1 car climbed to 5th on the speed chart. They were in race trim. The cool down unit (it cools down the car after a run) would not work for the No. 1 team. This could be a problem in qualifying but will not affect the race.
Brad Keselowski: Brad has finished 6 consecutive races at his home track in the top 9. Brad was in race trim for most of practice. He said the balance in the car was good. Paul Wolfe (Crew Chief) is also on baby watch this week. If his wife goes into labor Brian Wilson will serve as the crew chief for the No. 2 car.
Joey Logano: Joey said before practice that Michigan is the best track for the No. 22 to end their slump. He has a lot of confidence at this track. Logano has finished 8 consecutive races at Michigan in the top 10. Logano spent most of the practice in qualifying trim. He was a little loose and 6th fastest after his first run. Logano won both poles at Michigan last year.
Ryan Blaney: Ryan said in a press conference before practice that one of the things holding him back was confidence in his abilities to get to Victory Lane. Now that he won he believes he can win anywhere. After his first run Ryan said, “The balance is really good.”
Kyle Busch: Kyle started practice in race trim because they feared practice would be rained out Saturday. The No. 18 then switched to qualifying trim. Kyle won the pole for the last two races. Kyle was fastest in practice after his first qualifying run. Late in practice Kyle said the car was hitting the splitter. That seems to be a popular problem with the Joe Gibbs Racing cars today.
Matt Kenseth: The No. 20 team was working on the car hitting the splitter coming out of the corner. Matt was 18th fastest at the time. They brought the car in for a shock replacement.
Denny Hamlin: Denny tells the team, “It is way too loose. Even on the straightway.”
Daniel Suarez: The No. 19 car went out and made a 5 lap run. Suarez reported the car was too loose. He was 22nd fastest at the time.
Martin Truex Jr.: The No. 78 team brought the same car that they ran at Auto Club Speedway. Martin led 73 laps and finished 4th with this car. Truex spent the entire practice in race trim. He was fastest after his first run. Truex tells the team, “I can almost run it wide open all the way around.”
Erik Jones: The No. 77 car started practice with an identical setup as the No. 78 car. Erik was working on race trim runs. The team wanted him to work on “hitting his marks” for braking and getting into the throttle. The No. 77 team the qualifying trim in the car and Erik was 10th fastest on the speed chart.
Austin Dillon: The car was a little loose after a race trim run. The team made two changes and sent him back out. Austin said the car was lacking grip and loose in the corners.
Ryan Newman: Ryan went out and laid down a fast lap in his Velveeta Chevy. He was in qualifying setup. Ryan tells the team, “We need to work on the stability in the corner. We are losing speed in 1 and 2.”
Paul Menard: Paul said, “It is a little free in the center of the corner but pretty good all around.” The No. 27 car was loose in qualifying trim.
Ty Dillon: The No. 13 car opened practice in race trim. He was a little loose but fast. Ty said the car is getting worse with every run. They brought the No. 13 car in for some major adjustments.
AJ Allmendinger: AJ said, “The car feels pretty good. I have good grip in the cars and the throttle pickup is pretty good.” The No. 47 car was 19th fastest at the time. At the end of practices AJ said, “It is a little edgy. It is getting harder to hang onto.”
Chris Buescher: The No. 37 team unloaded with a lot of speed this week. Chris was 8th fastest after his first run. They had the qualifying setup in the car.
Trevor Bayne: Ryan Reed sat in on the No. 6 team practice because Trevor is on baby watch. Reed will drive is Bayne’s wife goes into labor.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Ricky said the car was too tight in his first race trim run. He ran 9 laps and the team brought the No. 17 car to the garage to make adjustments. They switched to qualifying trim at the end of practice.
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.: Bubba worked on race trim and ran a lot of laps in practice. The No. 43 team was just trying to get Bubba used to the car. Bubba tells the team, “It feels really fast. How are my speeds?” He was 29th fastest at the time. At the end of practice the No. 43 team had bubba work on his pit road speed.
Landon Cassill: Landon ran 9 laps in race trim and then brought the car in to switch to qualifying trim. Landon crashed with 2 minutes left in practice. The No. 34 team will go to a backup car.
David Ragan: David started practice in his qualifying setup. He was 9th fastest after his first run.
Michael McDowell: Michael made a race trim run and the car was too loose. They brought him in to try and tighten up the no. 95 car. After a rear shock replacement Michael said, “That feels a lot better.”
Cars that looked good in practice: Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch
* I would not be surprised if the No. 18 and No. 78 cars started on the front row for the 3rd straight race.
Here are the speeds for the final practice session: Michigan Practice Speeds
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