Wider racing groove could mean action-filled Sunday

Carl Edwards (Getty Images)
Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards

LAS VEGAS – The combination of NASCAR’s 2016 lower-downforce aerodynamic package and the propensity for Las Vegas Motor Speedway to “rubber in” could lead to thrilling racing in Sunday’s Kobalt 400, says Joe Gibbs Racing driver Carl Edwards.

“I think the biggest surprise is just how fast the cars are going,” Edwards said after his first stint on track in Thursday morning’s test session. “I guess, in my mind, I envisioned the lower-downforce package being slower, but the cars are really fast.

“The second thing that was notable to me, and I think is a real plus, is how the Goodyear rubber is laying down on the race track. There’s definitely a difference where the cars are running versus where they’re not running.

“I think that’s going to help the race to be really good, help us have multiple lanes. It’s already spread out in the corners. You can already run up to the second groove and make a little time right now. So hopefully that keeps migrating around, and I really hope that stays here all weekend.”

On Sunday, Edwards believes the surprisingly high speeds might contribute to some exciting racing.

“The speeds are just high,” Edwards said. “There’s still a ton of corner speed, a ton of throttle time, so, honestly, I think it’s going to be a little treacherous. Just like always, you want the car to be free, and regardless of how fast we’re going, there’s less air to lean on with the smaller spoiler and all that.

“So I think it’s going to be tough. Hopefully, like I said, the groove moves out, and if that’s the case, it’ll be pretty neat. You’ll have guys running the very top, sweeping guys down the back straightaway, catching ‘em — and that’ll be cool.”

HAMLIN HITS WALL IN TEST

In Thursday’s afternoon test session, Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin hit the wall and damaged his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota beyond repair.

Enter a backup car, the chassis that was supposed to serve as Hamlin’s backup at both Las Vegas and, two weeks hence, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

In Friday’s opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Hamlin ran seven laps in the backup, posting the 13th fastest speed (193.778 mph) of the session. Brad Keselowski topped the speed chart with a lightning-quick lap at 195.327 mph as drivers prepared for the qualifying session later in the day…

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.