Drivers who hoped to learn as much as they could about NASCAR’s new lower-horsepower, higher-drag competition package for Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race were still guessing on Friday afternoon, after rain washed out all but a few minutes of practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
As a result, drivers and crew chiefs have no certain idea what racing with the radically different package will look like when the elite of the Cup series compete for the $1-million top prize on the 1.5-mile intermediate speedway.
With restrictor plates on the engines and super-sized spoilers on the rear of the Cup cars, Kurt Busch expects to see pack racing a la Talladega.
“I’m anticipating it,” said Busch, who ran a total of four laps in Friday’s practice, which was interrupted by one deluge and halted by a second. “I don’t know how active it will be with the draft, but the way we approached our car on the 41 was in the area that was slightly different than one of the other cars at Stewart-Haas, and another car went their route.
“We’re trying to gather data as fast as we can and then be able to still zero in on what we believe will be the trend. I’m anticipating pack drafting. Here we are at a 1.5-mile race track with a restrictor plate, trying to create a drafting style package, because data shows that Talladega and Daytona are the two most appreciated races because of lead changes, position swaps and action on track.”
Busch was second fastest at 169.502 mph in the abbreviated practice session. Teammate Kevin Harvick, winner of the last two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points races, posted the fastest lap at 170.406 mph. Ford drivers claimed five of the top six positions on the speed chart, the one exception being Denny Hamlin, whose No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota clocked in as third fastest (169.428 mph).
Late Friday, NASCAR added a lone practice session for Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.