MENCS: Garage Talk Notes for Texas

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The MENCS traveled back to Texas Motor Speedway this week. The series has not competed at the track since March but we did have two races in the playoffs on the 1.5-mile tracks. The drivers who ran well at Las Vegas and Kansas should be fast this week. It will be fun to see the eight playoff drivers battle it out for a spot in the championship race at Homestead. The AAA Texas 500 can be seen Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

 

Track Notes

The cars will have the 550 HP engines with the 2” splitter, 8” spoiler and aero ducts this week. This is the same aero package they have raced at every 1.5-mile track this season. We can expect the speeds to be up in the corners and the draft to come into play on the front and backstretches. Passing has become difficult in the aero package and that should continue Sunday.

Goodyear brought a new left-side tire to the track this week. The right-side will be the same as what they used in the spring. It is the same tire setup that was used two weeks ago at Kansas. Each team receives 3 sets of tires for practice, 1 set for the qualifying and 9 sets for the race.

 

Stats from Races on Intermediate Tracks in 2019

Diver Avg. Finish Laps Led

Driver Rating

1. Kevin Harvick

9.0 430 108.3

2. Kyle Busch

10.1 349

107.5

3. Martin Truex Jr.

9.2

195

101.7

4. Joey Logano

10.8

172

99.7

5. Kurt Busch

11.5

166

98.8

6. Chase Elliott

9.8

148

98.1

7. Kyle Larson

13.4

255

95.4

8. Denny Hamlin

11.0

232

94.4

9. Brad Keselowski

11.1

162

94.4

10. William Byron

12.7

87

89.0

11. Ryan Blaney

18.4

92

89.0

12. Alex Bowman

10.6

166

88.8

13. Erik Jones

12.1

111

86.4

14. Aric Almirola

12.8

32

85.7

15. Clint Bowyer

13.2

57

85.7

16. Jimmie Johnson

13.3

73

83.2

17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

15.5

41

82.7

18. Daniel Suarez

15.7

109

81.1

19. Austin Dillon

19.3

6

75.3

20. Chris Buescher

13.4

11

72.5

21. Paul Menard

15.9

0

70.9

22. Ryan Newman

18.6

16

65.8

23. Daniel Hemric

24.3

11

62.3

24. Matt DiBenedetto

23.5

9

56.2

25. Ty Dillon

24.5

0

51.0

* Intermediate tracks include: Atlanta, Las Vegas, Texas, Kansas, Charlotte, Chicago, Kentucky and Darlington

 

Driver Notes

Chase Elliott: Elliott dug himself a hole with the mechanical problems at Martinsville. Now he is 44 points below the cut line and finds himself in almost a “must win” situation. The No. 9 car is the only HMS car left in the playoffs so all four cars were working on setups to help Elliott find Victory Lane Sunday. Elliott liked his car in the first practice. He said, “The balance is really good on both ends. It cuts consistently and has good throttle response.” After his final run Elliott told his team, “Thanks guys for the hard work. You definitely gave me what I need this weekend.” Elliott did not practice well at Kansas or Las Vegas and he finished 2nd and 4th in those races. The No. 9 team usually puts a lot of downforce into the car so it races better than it qualifies.

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has been a beast at Texas. He has 7 wins, 1,112 laps led and a 9.6 average finishing position in his 32 races at the track. Johnson had one of his best races in the Lone Star State in March. He won the pole, scored 9 Stage points, led 60 laps and finished 5th. Johnson made some long runs and said, “It is close to where I need it.” He was P5 at the time. After his final run Johnson said, “We went in the wrong direction with those changes.” He was P14 at the time.

Alex Bowman: Bowman has been at his best on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He won at Chicago and finished 2nd in the first race at Kansas. He came back to Kansas two weeks ago and finished 11th. Bowman has a 14.9 average starting position and a 9.8 average finishing position on the intermediate tracks this season. Bowman reported he car was good by itself but “really free in traffic.” He was P13 at the time.

William Byron: The No. 24 car has a good chance to run up front Sunday. Byron qualified 2nd, led 15 laps and finished 6th at Texas in March. He has been the 4th-best driver on the 1.5-mile tracks in the playoffs. I did receive a message that Chas Knaus would be working with Alan Gustafson on the setup of the No. 9 car so both cars should be similar this week. Byron spent a lot of time drafting with Jimmie Johnson in practice. He told his team, “I learned a lot on that run. Tell Jimmie to let me lead on the next run. I need to see if I can mimic what he is doing.”

Kyle Larson: Larson said last week, “Our playoff chances ride on the Texas race because I am not very good at Martinsville or Phoenix.” Larson is 24 points below the cut line so he needs a win or top 3 finish Sunday. The No. 42 team used the race at Kansas as a test for this race so they are expecting good results this week. Larson must have really liked his car. The team asked him how it was and he said, “I need some extra padding on my shoulder.” (He brook his ribs at Talladega) They asked how the car drives and he said, “No complaints.” After his last run Larson said, “I can hold it wide open all the was around for 10 laps.” The team put as much downforce as possible in the car so it will race well. I would not expect Larson to qualify well though.

Kurt Busch: Busch is still trying to decide his future but he did say he is 100% committed to helping his teammate (Kyle Larson) get to Homestead. The No. 1 car was trying setups that worked well for Busch at Stewart-Haas Racing to see if they worked this week and if he could pass them along to the No. 42 team. Kurt liked his car. He said, “We nailed 1 and 2 this weekend. 3 and 4 is a bit snug but I think we can loosen it up without ruining my 1 and 2.” He was P3 at the time.

Kevin Harvick: Harvick was on Fox Sports’ Race Hub last week and said, “Martinsville is not one of our better tracks. Our goal is to get out of the race this weekend with a top 10 and move onto two of our favorite tracks. We are bringing our best mile-and-half car to Texas. The guys have been working on it since the spring so I expect we will have a better chance to win that race.” Harvick went out with the same setup as Bowyer and he went to the top of the speed chart. He told Rodney Childers, “It is a little free off center but has good balanced everywhere else.”

Clint Bowyer: Bowyer said before the race at Kansas, “We just cannot get a handle on the 1.5-mile tracks this season.” His results show his comments are true. Bowyer has a 10th place average starting position and a 14th place average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. His best finish was his 2nd-place finish at Texas in March. The team started with the same setup they had in the spring and Bowyer went to the top of the speed chart. After his final run Bowyer said, “This pony is fast.”

Daniel Suarez: Suarez is highly motivate to run well because he is essentially races for his future. Suarez is the only driver from Stewart-Haas Racing who is not signed for the 2020 season and Cole Custer is making his case for a seat in the No. 41 car next year. Suarez finished 3rd in the spring race at Texas so that has to give him some confidence this week. Suarez was fighting a car that was bouncing on the track. The team made a shock adjustment between the practice session to help eliminate the problem.

Aric Almirola: Almirola has not finished in the top-10 on a 1.5-mile track since the first race at Texas. He qualified 21st, did not score any Stage points but made a run at the end of the race and finished 2nd. Almirola has a 8.5 average starting position and a 18.5 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Almirola did not like his car in the first practice. He made a short run and said, “I’m bringing it to ya… It is plowing tight. Undriveable…” He was P34 at the time. They put the Bowyer setup in the car and Almirola went to P1 on the speed chart.

Brad Keselowski: Keselowski showed last week at Martinsville that he is not giving up on the season just because he is eliminated from the playoffs. He passed his teammate (Ryan Blaney) twice late in the race to finish up front. The No. 2 car was testing different setups for their teammates today (Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney). Keselowski made some long runs and said, “The balance feels OK… I just get stalled out in practice. When other cars keep their momentum, I get tight and lose all of the momentum.” Paul Wolfe made some adjustments and Keselowski said, “That is much better.” He was P7 at the time.

Joey Logano: Logano entered the playoffs with a lot of momentum but he has cooled off since the the Round of 12 began. Logano has a 17.5 average finishing position in his last 4 races and now he sits on the cut line for the playoffs. Logano finished 17th in the first race at Texas and he finished 17th in the last race on a 1.5-mile track (Kansas). They need to turns things around quickly.Logano is driving the chassis that he won the race at Las Vegas with. He said, “I have the same feeling I had in 1 and 2 last time here. 3 and 4 is not a bad.” After his final run he almost lost it off of turn 3. He got really loose. The team dialed more downforce into the car and Logano liked the adjustments.

Ryan Blaney: Blaney had engine failure in the first race at Texas. His Team Penske Racing teammate (Brad Keselowski) also had engine failure in that race. The team worked hard to ensure that does not happen this week. Blaney has his work cut out for him this week. His average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks is 19th. Blaney made a long run and he said, “I think we are in the ballpark.”

Paul Menard: There is nothing special about Menard. His average starting position on the 1.5-mile tracks is 16th and his average finishing position is 16th. He is about the easiest driver in the field to predict. Pencil Menard in for a finish between 15th-20th and you will be right 99% of the time. I was not able to get much info on the No. 21 car but most of his lap times were between 14th – 18th.

Kyle Busch: I have been listening to Busch on the radio the last couple of races and he is not a happy driver. He hates this aero package, hates that he cannot run as well as his teammates and he hates drivers blocking him. An attitude adjustment will probably help help a lot more than any changes to his car. Busch made a long run and had a lot to say about the car. It was bouncing too much, sliding the nose, tight in 1 and 2… Normal KB stuff. The good news is he told his team, “Each change has been positive. We are going in the right direction, we just need more of it.”

Erik Jones:  Jones had a good race at Texas in March. He qualified 11th and finished 4th. It was the 3rd consecutive race at the track where Jones finished in the 4th position. He said on SiriusXM last week that Texas is one of his favorite tracks. Jones started the first practice with the same setup as the No. 18. After their first run they decided to make a lot of changes. Jones said, “It has a lot of turbulence in traffic.” They made some changes and he went to P3 on the speed chart.

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been one of the best drivers in the playoffs and he won the March race at Texas. He also won the last race on a 1.5-mile track two weeks ago in Kansas. All of the stats point to Hamlin going back to Victory Lane again Sunday. Hamlin made some long runs and said, “1 and 2 are really good…entry to 3 is not bad… but on exit of 4 I travel up the track. It does not get better throughout the run.” They worked on the car and Hamlin was consistently in the top 3 on the speed charts.

Martin Truex Jr.: Truex was going to be my pick to win this race but I changed my pick after he went to Victory Lane at Martinsville. Truex is locked into the Final Four at Homestead so this race is meaningless for the No. 19 team.The risk with using the No. 19 car this week is… if they have any problems in the race they could just pack up and go home instead of repair the damage. I expect Cole Pearn to use this race as a test for Homestead. Truex reported, “Heavy smoke coming from the tires” in the first practice. In final practice Truex had a vibration. They seemed to work out all of their problems by the end of practice and Truex was happy with the car.

Matt DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto has been much better on the short tracks than he has been on the large ovals but the No. 95 team is starting to show some improvements. DiBenedetto has a 17.3 average finishing position in his last 3 races on the intermediate tracks. He qualified 27th and finished 15th at Kansas two weeks ago. Matty-D made some long runs and told his team, “This is the best intermediate car we have had all season.” He was P11 at the time.

Daniel Hemric: Hemric would be one of the best choices in the field if the races on the 1.5-mile tracks were only 2 laps long. Hemric is very good at qualifying but not very good at finishing the races on the large ovals. Hemric has a 9.2 average starting position and a 22.9 average finishing position on these tracks this season. Hemric made a long run and reported a vibration in the car. The team thought it was simply a loose wheel. When he went back out the vibration was gone.

Austin Dillon: Richard Childress Racing chooses to trim their cars out so they can qualify up front but it does not help them in the race. Dillon has a 7.1 average starting position and a 20.3 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He has been one of the worst picks in DFS at these tracks because he consistently scores negative place differential points. Dillon made a long run and said, “I’m not great in 1 and 2. I’m good with how it handles in 3 and 4.”

Ty Dillon: Dillon had a decent race at Texas in March. He qualified 9th, which was surprising and he finished 21st. His average running position was 19.1 so he spent most of the day in the top 20. The No. 13 team has improved ever since they received more money from sponsors to inspect their cars before they take them to the track. Dillon finished 16th at Las Vegas and 22nd at Kansas in the playoffs.

Chris Buescher: Texas is the home track for Buescher and he has a history of running well in the Lone Star State. Buescher likely will not qualify well but once the green flag is waive; Buescher usually makes his way to the front. He has a 24.7 average starting position and a 13.6 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Buescher liked his car. He said, “It is good in 1 and 2… just floating the nose a bit in 3 and 4 but doesn’t loose much speed.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has been just “OK” in Fantasy NASCAR on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. His average starting position is 13.6 and his average finishing position is 13.6. He will likely score a top 15 finish but will not score many place differential points. Stenhouse made a long run and told his team, “The place where you are going to make your money this week is on exit of 2. That is where I am the best at.” He was P3 at the time.

Ryan Newman: Newman is having a pretty good season. He usually moves up 5-7 spots from where he qualifies in the race. His official starting spot in the first race at Texas was 18th but he actually started last because his car failed inspection. Newman drove through the field and finished 11th. Newman made a long run and told his team, “It starts off tight..builds loose throughout the run. It would help if I were more free on the start.” He was P12 at the time.

 

Favorites to win Sunday: Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott

 

Good Sleeper Picks: Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stnehouse Jr., Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher, Paul Menard

 

 

MENCS Final Practice Speeds

 

MENCS Final Practice 10-Lap Avg.Speeds

 

 

Click Here for Friday 1st Practice Speeds

 

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