Negotiating the seams is one key to success at Auto Club Speedway

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 28: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AAA Southern California Ford, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 28, 2020 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

In football, finding a seam in a zone defense can lead to a completed pass.

Finding a seam between lanes at Auto Club Speedway, however, can lead to disaster.

The lanes at Fontana are separated by sealer connecting the slabs of asphalt, and those seams can play havoc with a car that runs across them.

“You better pick a lane and stick to it,” said Joey Logano, who was 13th fastest in opening NASCAR Cup Series practice and 16th in the final session. “That’s how this place works. The seams here are very wide and have that sealer in there, and that sealer isn’t very grippy at all. A lot of times cars get kind of stuck on the seams.

“Cars take a bit arc down in the corner and then get to that last seam they need to cross, and it just stops and you don’t get there. That’s where a lot of passes are made, when someone misses the bottom and the car behind them is able to make the bottom and make a pass that way. You have to be smart when you cross them. Especially leaving (Turn) 2, you cross over them so quickly that your car really just wants to take off.”

The seasons lend a unique character to the two-mile track.

“This place has more little details like that that a driver and team needs to overcome, more than maybe any other track we go to when it comes to bumps, seams, the surface wearing out, different lines,” Logano said.

“It’s really hard to practice here and know what you need for the race and what lanes you’re going to be racing. It has definitely been one of those races that experience has played a key role in being good in the race.”

SHORT STROKES

Kyle Busch scraped the Turn 3 wall in final practice, giving the car what crew chief Adam Stevens described as a “flesh wound.” The team was able to repair the No. 18 Toyota in relatively short order and get Busch back on the track. He was 10th fastest in the session…

Alex Bowman led both NASCAR Cup practices on Friday, running laps in 40.125 seconds (179.439 mph) in the opening session and 40.764 seconds (176.626 mph) in Happy Hour. Chevrolet drivers held the top four spots in first practice and three of the top four in the final session.