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.”


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…