To Kurt Busch, there were two distinctly different aspects to Friday’s opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Michigan International Speedway—in the draft and out of the draft.
“There cars by themselves are very stable, and there’s a ton of speed,” said Busch, who ran the eighth fastest single lap in the opening session at 187.490 mph. “The you got in the draft, and it was magnified by 10 on how difficult the draft feels and how the car’s reacting.
“So I’m not sure where the balance needs to be between that raw speed versus the handling in the draft.”
That doesn’t mean Busch expects Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to resemble a superspeedway event, with cars racing in close proximity in large packs. But drafting will still be an integral part of the competition at the 2-mile track.
“Yes, it is, because you don’t know where you’ll end up in the corner,” Busch said. “You want the clean air in the corner, but you want the draft on the straightaway. There’s no way to have your cake and eat it, too, so you’ve got to work on the handling side of things to cover that base.”
Even though the fastest Cup cars were roughly 14 mph slower than they were last year with the current higher-downforce, lower-horsepower competition package, Busch said the cars felt edgy in the draft.
“Either everybody’s struggling with it, or for us in the 1 car and the 42 car (Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson), the drafting stability was compromised quite a bit,” Busch said. “I didn’t even check the overall lap times, but by itself, the car felt slower, and in the draft it feels faster.”