Drivers blame traction compound for lack of grip during first practice at Charlotte
By Tyler Head
October 7, 2017
CONCORD, N.C.–Slick conditions, described with words like “slime” and “ice” by drivers, made for a more-eventful-than-usual opening practice for the Bank of America 500.
Some of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ top contenders slid into trouble Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Chevrolet tagged the wall early in the session, forcing the team to a backup car.
Playoff contenders Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch also had run-ins with the wall, though they suffered only minor damage.
Earnhardt directed the blame towards the PJ1 TrackBite compound that was applied to the track ahead of the race weekend.
The custom resin has been experimented with at select tracks since 2016 in an attempt to enhance the racing product. The compound proved effective at providing grip at tracks like Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway, but Earnhardt said it had the opposite effect Friday.
“It’s had a bad reaction to the sun or something that’s made it really slick,” Earnhardt said. “If you get into it where nobody has used it or been through there, it’s like ice - and that’s anywhere in the middle of the corner.”
Earnhardt wasn’t alone in his assessment; several other drivers who avoided any major mishaps during practice also took note of the slick surface.
“It’s the opposite of traction right now,” Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said. “Certainly I don’t think anyone expected it to be as challenging as it was,” added Martin Truex Jr.
Earnhardt remained optimistic the track’s surface would gain grip over the course of the weekend, but urged NASCAR to investigate driver’s complaints before applying more of the PJ1 compound.
“I wouldn’t apply any more of that stuff for now until we figure out what happened today and why it reacted the way it did,” Earnhardt said.
Truex was also confident grip would return as the weekend progresses, adding, “Maybe for the future we definitely need to look at a different way to prep the track so when we go out there guys aren’t running into the wall.”
Two Saturday practice sessions for the MENCS should offer a clearer picture of what impact the PJ1 compound will have on Sunday’s Bank of America 500, the first of three races in Round 2 of the playoffs.
Kyle Stephens/The Racing Experts