Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – CONCORD, NC – Joey Logano had a terse prediction for Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race.
“It’s going to get crazy—we’re going to crash some stuff tonight,” Logano said after a Saturday morning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice NASCAR added to the schedule after rain wiped out most of Friday’s practice time.
With a new rules package specifically for the All-Star Race—featuring a restrictor-plate to reduce horsepower and a giant-sized spoiler to provide additional downforce and drag—Logano expected the race for the $1-million top prize to be a war of attrition.
“When there’s that much money on the line, there’s going to be some aggressive racing, and we’re going to see that here no matter what, especially when you have a 10-lap shootout,” Logano said.
“That’s going to get pretty chaotic pretty quick. I don’t think the last 10 laps will go caution-free. Maybe I’m wrong, but if there are any cars left, it might just be about survival. That might be a big deal tonight.”
Drivers were respectful in Saturday’s practice, but they used every inch of the 1.5-mile speedway and on occasion raced three-wide through the corners. What the competition was going to look like under race conditions was still anyone’s guess.
“Was practice pretty entertaining to watch?” Logano asked rhetorically. “Probably. It was a big pack, and cars were rolling in and out. When everyone is on the same tires, will the pack look the same? I don’t think we can honestly answer that yet.
“So I can’t give you a fair answer yet, and I want to be honest with you, but I can’t tell you exactly how it is going to look yet. I think when there are different amounts of laps on tires, it’s pretty cool out there… The way these stages are, it definitely presents the opportunity for cars to get on different strategies and make desperate moves from the pit box. That can happen, and that will definitely shake it up.”
ARIC ALMIROLA SAYS HANDLING MORE OF A FACTOR AT CHARLOTTE
All restrictor-plate races are not created equal.
At larger superspeedways such as Daytona and Talladega, drivers can ride at full-throttle around the entire track, and the draft is the critical factor in keeping the cars bunched in a tight pack.
Though the competition package for Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race also features a restrictor-plate to reduce horsepower, the tighter confines of 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway should increase the premium on handling.
“The track is so much smaller, so the radius of the corners is a lot tighter than at Daytona and Talladega,” said Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. “We go there (to the superspeedways), and you run wide open really easily and don’t really bog your car down a lot with steering input, because the corners are so wide and sweeping.
“This track is not like those, and the radius of the corners is a lot tighter so it’s a lot more challenging as you get further back in the pack from what I have seen in practice. The corners are sharper, and you have less downforce and air on the car when you get further in the back. It’s more of a challenge to run wide open because of the radius of the corners.”
Nevertheless, there are similarities, as Almirola also pointed out.
“While we’re drafting and are closer together and do kind of suck up like you see at Daytona and Talladega, the straightaways are much smaller, so there is less length of time to get that big run, and it has to happen quick.
“When you get to the corner, you have to make sure your car handles good enough to be able to run wide open.”
Kyle Larson paced Saturday morning’s combined practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race and Monster Energy Open with a lap at 173.305 mph in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Stewart-Haas Racing Ford teammates Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola held the next three positions on the speed chart. Fifth-place Daniel Suarez had the fastest Toyota…
Turning 18 was more than just another birthday for Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Todd Gilliland. It brought a baptism by fire. Gilliland celebrated his milestone birthday on Tuesday. On Friday he competed on a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway for the first time in one of NASCAR’s top three touring series, finishing 10th in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“That was a huge learning experience, I mean all around from the very first lap,” Gilliland said. “I think I fell back about 10 spots on the first lap. Just a different kind of racing. There’s really no way to prepare for it except to do it.”