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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup

Six Emerging Storylines From Charlotte Motor Speedway

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N0-grip strip

Drivers were not happy with the way the track-applied PJ1 adhesive reacted at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway circuit. Instead of making the upper groove grippier, it made it slipperier, causing numerous issues. Victims in Friday’s practice included Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch, both of whom hit the Turn 4 wall hard enough to have to go to backup cars during the session. Brad Keselowski had a lurid spin and just brushed the SAFER barrier, while David Ragan had minor contact in Turn 4.

“The opposite of traction right now,” said Ricky Stenhouse Jr. called it. “… There’s quite a few tore-up cars already from it.”

After Friday’s calamity, the track decided to reapply the sticky stuff in attempt to solve the problem.

Vegas blues

The annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards Banquet takes place in Las Vegas, where Sunday night 59 people were murdered and more than 500 wounded when a gunman opened fire from the Mandalay Bay Resort into a concert crowd. Friday at Charlotte, several drivers were asked if that any security concerns.

“It’s really hard to think about that right now and it’s sad that we have to talk about it,” Cup points leader Martin Truex Jr. said of the Las Vegas shooting. “It’s awful to see what happened there. … I definitely wouldn’t want to be the one making the decision to go there or the guy that has to set up security or any of that stuff. It’s a crazy time in this world.”

“I know NASCAR has an awesome security team,” added Kyle Larson. “So, I wouldn’t never really be nervous and all that. I mean, I don’t know, any of those people that were going there probably don’t expect anything like that to happen.  I don’t think I would ever expect it to happen.  As we have seen time and time again, it seems like lately anything can happen at big events.  I don’t know, but I guess right now I wouldn’t be too worried about it because, like I said, NASCAR has a great team of security.”   

Still speedy

Toyotas have won nine of the last 12 Cup races, so it’s no surprise that three of the top four qualifiers for Sunday’s Bank of America 500 came from Joe Gibbs Racing, with Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth qualifying 1-2, with Kyle Busch fourth behind the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of Kevin Harvick.

The pole was the 25th of Hamlin’s career, but his first this year. “I had one pole and at least one win in every year of my career, so I knew that the time was running out to get a pole because I hadn’t had one yet in 2017,” said Hamlin. “I didn’t keep track of the numbers, like how many, I just care about keeping the streak of winning at least one in every season alive.”

Of the 12 drivers still alive in the NASCAR playoffs, Jimmie Johnson had the worst qualifying results, timing in in 25th place.

“We just missed it. So, another frustrating Friday, unfortunately,” said Johnson.  “… We’ll have to pass a bunch of cars on Sunday. It sucks starting the weekend behind like this, but it is what it is and we’re just going to have to go to work on Sunday.”

Ruh, roh roval

 Sunday’s Bank of America 500 will be run on the normal Charlotte oval, but this race next year will be run on the track’s “roval,” a mixture of the oval and an infield road course. Drivers don’t seem that excited about the move.

“I don’t really know what to expect,” said Kyle Larson, one of this year’s championship favorites. “I don’t know if it’s going to be a good race, a bad race, an embarrassing race or what, but it’s going to be exciting nonetheless.  I think the fans will enjoy it.  I don’t know how the drivers will feel about it until we actually get to make some laps and compete.

“I’m kind of up in the air in my thoughts about it and what to expect,” said Ryan Blaney. “I’m not sure what to expect. I’m don’t think anybody is, really.”

“I’m not looking forward to running the road course here,” said Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The law won

Inspection continues to be a major issue in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage. Prior to Saturday afternoon’s final practice, NASCAR penalized 19 teams for multiple inspection infractions. A total of 11 teams were given 15-minute practice holds, while eight more lost 30 minutes in final practice.

All four Hendrick Motorsports cars, both Furniture Row Racing entries, both Roush Fenway Racing cars and three more from Stewart-Haas Racing were among those socked with loss of practice time.

A good cause

Charlotte Motor Speedway and Speedway Children’s Charities donated $100,000 to establish the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Concussion Research Fund at Carolinas Healthcare System’s Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.

The $100,000 gift underwrites ImPACT baseline concussion testing for more than 10,000 student athletes at 62 middle schools, high schools and athletic associations across eight area counties as well as Johnson C. Smith University and Gardner-Webb University. Mooresville High School –Earnhardt’s alma mater – will also be part of the program.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.