Soggy Saturday eliminates Cup practices, leaves unknowns for Sunday
By Tyler Head
October 7, 2017
CONCORD, N.C.–When drivers hit the track for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte, they’ll do so with limited practice time.
Rain eliminated two planned tune-up sessions for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Saturday, and most teams chose to focus on qualifying rather than race setups during an 85-minute practice Friday.
One of the exceptions is the No. 37 of Chris Buescher. The JTG-Daugherty team chose to spend time working on its race setup Friday, something Buescher was thankful for as he stood outside his hauler Saturday.
“Honestly this has been a bit of a surprise,” Buescher said. “Today looked like the better day, so we really didn’t plan it ahead. We would have liked to try some things today, but I think we’re comfortable enough with what we had that we’ll be okay for the race.”
On the other end of the spectrum is playoff contender Brad Keselowski. The No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford caught the wall in Friday’s practice after turning only five laps.
Despite the limited track time, Keselowski was confident his crew would be able to lean on other sources to get the car setup for the race.
“We ran this race a little bit in the spring, so we have some of that to lean on,” Keselowski said. “We have all sorts of tools with simulators and whatnot to try to get that dialed in.
“I kinda look at it, when things like this arise, it’s ‘Did everybody get an equal opportunity?’ The answer is ‘Yes,’ so everyone’s in the same spot,” he added.
His Team Penske teammate Joey Logano turned more laps (22) than anyone else in the weekend’s lone practice, but nonetheless was uncertain how his car would drive during the race.
“We changed everything on our car since then so it’ll be an unknown,” Logano said.
Logano wasn’t dwelling on that unknown, though. He passed some of the downtime signing autographs and taking pictures with fans outside his team’s hauler between raindrops.
“At least I’m still doing something today. I’m not driving a racecar, but at least I can hang out and say hello to everyone.”
Buescher said he planned to use the unexpected free time to catch up with some friends from the Charlotte area, which is home track for much of the NASCAR garage.
“Charlotte’s a little different because we got so many people out here,” Buescher said. “We got some friends in and around the racetrack in the infield so I’m gonna go try and find some of them and goof off until the XFINITY race fires up.”
It’s common practice for Cup drivers to study other races over the course of a weekend, especially when track time becomes limited.
Buescher and Keselowski said they planned to keep a watchful eye on the Drive for the Cure 300 Saturday, particularly to see if the PJ1 traction compound applied to part of the track’s corners which was blamed for slick conditions by drivers Friday would yield more grip.
“I’m glad the XFINITY guys are on it first,” Keselowski said with a chuckle. “We’ll see what they think.”
“We’re gonna watch that one closely,” Buescher said. “This track always widens out by itself, so I’ll think we’ll get up there regardless - it’s just a matter of how soon and how treacherous it is.”
At the time of this writing, rain had also delayed the start of Drive for the Cure 300. The Weather Channel’s forecast for Sunday calls for a 50-percent chance of rain.
Kyle Stephens/The Racing Experts