The carousel wasn’t what Paul Menard expected

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 21: Paul Menard, driver of the #21 Menards/Richmond Ford, leads Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 21, 2019 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Most drivers prepared for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 by running laps in a simulator that incorporated the carousel into the program.

But the reality of the new stretch of track connecting Turns 4 and 7 wasn’t what Paul Menard expected.

“It was cool,” said Menard, who was 11th fastest in Friday’s opening practice. “I’ve watched it a bunch on TV with IndyCar and sportscars. It’s smaller than what I thought. I thought it would be wider, a more opened-up corner than it is.

“It’s really pretty narrow and kind of a short corner. I was thinking it would be more like the carousel at Road America. This is a lot shorter and some pretty big elevation changes.”

The new configuration that incorporates Turns 5 and 6 also transforms Turn 7 into a second hairpin on a course that already features tight Turn 11.

“Yeah, we aren’t even on the same race track as we used to be,” Menard said. “We used to run long and do a 160-degree corner and now we bypass that and do that double right a little tighter. It’s a totally different corner now.”

Greg Engle