Kansas Speedway proves challenging with 2017 package

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 12: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 12, 2017 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The combination of a maturing Kansas Speedway and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ lower-downforce aerodynamic package made negotiating the 1.5-mile intermediate track a formidable challenge—even in practice.

Incidents affected both Friday practice sessions. Dale Earnhardt Jr. barely kept his No. 88 Chevrolet off the Turn 4 wall in opening practice, with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson fighting for control behind him.

Erik Jones spun into the infield grass but avoided serious damage to his No. 77 Toyota. The car was repaired for the second session.

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson both scraped the Turn 2 wall in the second session, but the damage was far more serious on Larson’s Chevrolet. His team quickly rolled out a backup No. 42.

“I felt like I was going to crash every lap since we unloaded today,” Larson, the series leader, said as his team worked to prepare the backup car. “We only made like seven laps the first practice because I was spinning out every time. They made some big adjustments there between practices…

“I just tried to open my entry up a little bit in (Turn) 1 and it stepped out on me, I felt, before I ever got to the corner, and I mean I didn’t have really time to chase it. I feel bad that I wrecked a primary car. Our backup should be just as good, if not better than our primary. Yeah, it’s just really, really edgy for some reason this weekend.”