Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – HAMPTON, GA – Too much speed? After topping the speed chart in Saturday’s practice session for Monster Energy Cup Series cars, Clint Bowyer warned that too much speed at abrasive Atlanta Motor Speedway might tend to shorten the life of a set of tires.
“You need to be good from 15 laps on,” said Bowyer, who ran his fastest circuit of the session in 30.954 seconds (179.104 mph). “But the problem is, you don’t really get that big a tow off another car like we were at the Vegas test earlier in the year.
“It’s going to be interesting. I think this is a learning process. Somebody’s going to hit it (on Sunday in the Folds of honor QuikTrip 500, 2 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and some of these teams are going to drastically miss it. I hope we hit it.”
Bowyer will start third in Sunday’s race, behind Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola and fellow Ford driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
FLU KO’S KEZ IN SATURDAY PRACTICE
When Saturday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice got under way, Brad Keselowski wasn’t in his customary position behind the wheel of the no. 2 Team Penske Ford.
With Keselowski suffering from flu-like symptoms, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric took his place and ran 13 laps in the Deuce and wound up 28th on the speed chart.
The ailing Keselowski took over for a brief stint in the second half of the session but couldn’t improve on Cindric’s speed.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
There’s a difference between the relationship Joe Gibbs Racing had with Furniture Row Racing last year and the one JGR currently maintains with Leavine Family Racing.
Last year, driver Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn were included in competition meetings with the Gibbs team. This year, LFR driver Matt DiBenedetto and crew chief Mike Wheeler are not, even though Wheeler was Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin’s crew chief last year.
“We have a good relationship with them and good communication with them,” DiBenedetto said. “But we have our own separate competition meeting at our own shop on Tuesdays, where we discuss the communication back and forth and get whatever info we can.”
That makes DiBenedetto’s performance in the Daytona 500, where he led a race-high 49 laps in a very fast No. 95 LFR Toyota, all the more impressive.
THEY DIDN’T GO TO THE MATTRESSES
When Furniture Row Racing ceased operations after the 2018 season, team owner Barney Visser offered some of his employees opportunities in the furniture business.
Others found jobs with other race teams, and reigning NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion Brett Moffitt was one of the beneficiaries.
“We acquired a couple of people from Furniture Row to help with our chassis and body stuff,” said Moffitt, who moved from Hattori Racing Enterprises to GMS Racing this year. “I think that’s going to go a long way as well.”