There are a few things that have changed at the Texas Motor Speedway but the speed the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams run at hasn’t. Okay, maybe that is a little bit overstated but, no matter how you look at it, the Texas track is still one of the fastest on the NASCAR circuit. That doesn’t mean that the changes they made to it haven’t caused the teams to re-evaluate their notes and notebooks for the place but they are still making fast laps around the place. It also doesn’t mean the drivers don’t have to adjust their driving style to match the new surface and re-designed turns one and two. Both the new surface and re-design have caused situations for most if not all of them but it hasn’t really slowed them down that much.
Of course the usual drivers seem to be at the top of the speed lists and Kevin Harvick did win the pole. Brad Keselowski was at the top of the list for the Saturday morning practice and Kyle Larson wasn’t far behind. In the final practice the Hendrick teams of Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott finally showed up at the top but this fan wonders if it’s only because the others were no longer pressing the envelope. (Oh and by the way, let’s not forget Jimmie Johnson has to start at the rear of the field on Sunday due to his spin an after his qualifying lap so he’s going to need all the speed he can muster on Sunday afternoon.)
It certainly was an interesting Friday qualifying session. Several of the known drivers and teams couldn’t get through inspection in time to make qualifying. That means very little unless pit selection makes a big difference for those that didn’t qualify compared to those that did. We all know qualifying isn’t THAT big of a deal except for pit stall selections and it generally doesn’t make a whole lot of difference on race day. One fast lap doesn’t necessarily transfer over to a strong finish over all of the laps on race day.
I also find it interesting that Kyle Larson still looks like he will be running at, or near, the front on Sunday just like he has most of the 2017 season so far. Well, that is as long as he stays out of trouble on the track and doesn’t have trouble in the pits. In fact, he could win this race. I’m not saying he will, I’m just saying he has a good chance if he runs like he has been so far. He has been one of the fastest cars in every practice this weekend but was one of those that didn’t get through inspection in time for qualifying. That means he’ll be starting in the 32 second position and could mean trouble for getting to the front fast. Fortunately for those with fast cars but bad starting positions, it is a long race.
One thing all of the drivers will have to face is what happens when they get just outside of the racing groove. With the new track surface and the lower down-force for the cars this season, many have already shown getting into the grey above the groove just doesn’t work all that well. Well, at least it hasn’t so far this weekend and several have gone to back up cars because of it. That means it will likely be hard to pass if the groove doesn’t widen out. Now, this fan does expect the groove to widen out but it still will be a problem for them until it does.
There is a high possibility that a Ford could end up in Victory Lane by the time the checkered flag drops at the end of the day. Kevin Harvick’s name does come to mind but I can’t rule out Brad Keselowski either. Both have looked strong over the course of the practice sessions and either could end up the winner. It could also be the Fords of either Joey Logano or Ryan Blaney. I’m not pulling for the one but it wouldn’t bother this die hard Chevy fan to see Ryan Blaney end up in Victory Lane – he has looked pretty strong lately and it would surprise me all that much if he did.
Now, at the risk of sounding repetitive, when it comes to the Chevys, I just can’t escape the fact that Kyle Larson has run up front almost every race and he could win another one this week or it could be his team-mate, Jamie McMurray. The Ganassi teams are looking very good and either one or both of these guys could as the winner when it is all said and done.
From this fan’s view, this could be a completely different race than we have seen in recent times at the Texas track. It could be another one of the times someone totally unexpected takes the win or it could be the usual ones rise to the occasion and show why they running at, or near, the front on a regular basis this year. Since the Hendrick Chevys did actually show some speed in the final practice, I won’t rule out the possibility of one of them taking the win. Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott are at the top of my list but I won’t rule out Dale Jr. or Kasey Kahne. (After all, stranger things have happened at Texas…)
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 8, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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