Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – JOLIET, IL – Bring on the bumps.
Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. says the bumps in the asphalt at Chicagoland Speedway make driving more difficult—and for Truex, that’s a good thing.
Shots from Justin Hailey’s visor cam in Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the 1.5-mile track showed just how rough a ride the Cup drivers will get in Sunday’s Overton’s 400 (at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). But in Truex’s view, difficult conditions help elevate the quality of the on-track product.
“I think it’s great,” Truex said before Saturday morning’s opening practice at Chicagoland. “Anytime we can make the track more difficult, it can add to the racing. This place has been bumpy for the last few years and quite a long time. It seems like every year it gets worse. I think that’s a good thing.
“I enjoy this place because of that and seems like bumpy tracks put on really good racing. It kind of takes you out of your normal routine as far as the way you do things. You have to make compromises. Some guys are better in certain areas of the track, and that makes for more fun races. This place is unbelievable, and I look forward to racing on it here this weekend.”
There may be a modicum of bias in Truex’s point of view. After all, he’s the winner of the last two races at the Joliet track. But Truex also acknowledges that the bumpy asphalt demands modifications to the setup of his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry.
“It definitely changes how you practice and how you drive,” said Truex, who celebrated his 38th birthday on Friday. “Changes how you set the car up, and you definitely have to make more compromises when the tracks are bumpy with your setup, and you can’t just run the car a 16th of an inch off the race track all the way around like you do at some places.
“So it’s definitely tougher to figure out, but it’s a lot harder on the crew chiefs and engineers, for sure, because we complain about the bumps, and they try to fix them (with setup), and it hurts other parts of the track. So a lot of compromise here compared to other places.”
DANIEL SUAREZ IS CONFIDENT HE CAN QUALIFY FOR THE PLAYOFFS
Entering Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the 17th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the 2018 season, Daniel Suárez is 19th in the standings.
Nearly halfway through his sophomore season at NASCAR’s highest level, Suárez is still looking for his first victory. The best career results for the 26-year-old from Mexico are two third-place finishes, at Watkins Glen in 2017 and at Dover this year.
But one thing Suárez doesn’t lack is confidence, and on Saturday morning at Chicagoland Speedway, he called his own shot where the Cup Series Playoffs are concerned.
“I don’t really know (how), but we’re going to make it,” Suárez asserted. “I will tell you that. Somehow, we are going to work very hard like we’ve been doing. It’s a real shame that we haven’t showed the results we deserve, because the speed has been there.
“We have shown the ability to finish in the top-10 every race. I don’t know. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. Maybe some of my stuff, it needs a little bit of luck, but I don’t believe in luck 100 percent. We’re going to be fine. Maybe in a month, we’re going to be in a different position.”
Suárez can make the final 16 either with a victory or on points. As it stands now, with Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon 18th in points, Suárez would have to overtake 15th-place Alex Bowman to qualify for the Playoffs.
Though Suárez trails Bowman by 73 points, he doesn’t view that deficit as insurmountable.
“By points is very doable,” Suárez said. “I think if we have the speed to go out there and win a race, we will take that chance. But if we don’t and have to finish top-five or top-10, we’re going to be consistent and play that way, winning the stage points and stuff like that.
“I mean 70 points in 10 races is not a lot. It’s doable, but you have to race smart, and a lot of people freak out a little bit. I am not one of those. I have to stay calm. We will be fine.”
NASCAR WHELEN EURO AND PINTY’S SERIES TO STAGE UNPRECEDENTED DRIVER SWAP
For the first time in NASCAR history, two international series—the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series run in Canada—will engineer an exchange of one driver from each series to compete in the championship race in the other’s series later this year.
A driver from the Whelen Euro Series will race in the August 10-12 Grand Prix de Trois Rivieres (GP3R). The European driver will be the regular season winner of the Whelen Euro Elite 1 Championship, to be determined after Sunday’s Oval World Challenge in Tours, France.
That driver will compete for the Dumoulin Competition race team in a Spectra Premium team car on the Canadian GP3R street course.
In the October 19-21 Whelen Euro season finale at Zolder in Belgium, Canadian driver and Spectra Premium ambassador Jean-Francois Dumoulin will complete the driver swap.
Spectra Premium Industries, which has developed high-performance radiators for several stock car series and recently introduced its parts into the European market, made the exchange possible.