Chalk it up to aging pavement, which delights most race car drivers.
The asphalt surface at Richmond Raceway has become more volatile and unpredictable as the pavement degrades.
“It’s way different,” said NASCAR Xfinity Series leader Elliott Sadler, one of four drivers competing for the Dash 4 Cash bonus in Friday night’s ToyotaCare 250. “The tires are different that Goodyear brings. The asphalt is really worn out here, and the car changes a lot during a long run here.
“The track has really widened out a lot in the last couple years. It used to be everybody (ran) the bottom. Now you see guys making time through the middle and right up against the wall, especially in (Turns) 3 and 4. So the groove has really changed.”
Sadler got a second opinion from JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier, who, along with Daniel Hemric and Spencer Gallagher, also earned eligibility for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus at Richmond.
“Today I saw Noah Gragson running the middle, and there were quite a few other cars that were running the middle,” Allgaier said. “I would say about five years ago, no one would have even thought about venturing up past maybe a lane and a half off the bottom, and he was out there actually making laps.
“That’s exciting from a driver’s standpoint. When you can see somebody already getting up there, and you’re an hour into practice, that’s pretty cool.”
Interestingly, Gragson found significant speed in the middle lane. He posted the third fastest lap overall and fastest consecutive 10-lap average in final practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers.