Practice the key to new asphalt

By Stan Creekmore


Watkins Glen - Change the quality of the asphalt at a racetrack and there is typically an extra day of practice for teams to adjust to the changes.

For the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers the extra day of practice was in Xfnity Series cars on Thursday.

Joey Logano went from a 72.286 second run in his first practice on Thursday to 71.424 in his final practice and then 70.814 seconds in his qualifying run which pit him on the pole for the Zippo 200.

Brad Keselowski went from 72.954 seconds to 71.752 to 70.943 in his outside pole qualifying run.

Keselowski freely admitted his first laps around the the 2.454 mile NASCAR layout were learning laps.

The track is changing dramatically as the cars run on and lay rubber down. It changes,” started Keselowski went asked about the new racing surface. “When we started practice here Thursday the practice was about five seconds slower than what it was here in qualifying. That is a very dramatic change of pace. Five seconds is at least 10 mph average speed.”

Ten miles per hour is huge on a road course.

That is a good way to put it in perspective. I ran wide open on my last run through the esses here in qualifying and there are three turns in the esses. In practice when the track was just starting out you could barely run half throttle through those three corners.

The track changes dramatically as it takes rubber.”

Logana was a bit more reserved in his assessment. He also thought the rubber laid down during the practice sessions was the biggest improvement.

I don’t think it will be very much,” sated Logano when asked how much of the Xfinity race would be a learning experience related to the new asphalt and tires. “We will go out there and hammer down right off the bat. I think we have picked up so much that we are at that peak. A lot of the time picked up as much as anything is track rubbering in and getting used to the new surface and figuring out your racecar and what it takes to go fast.

For awhile here yesterday, actually every run was faster. You would just keep jumping up the board. Every time we went out we went faster. That is just somewhat kind of a repave and some of it is just the first time on the racetrack with the repave and some of that stuff just goes together. Obviously drivers getting used to the new repave too. Those three things add up to being a lot of time. I don’t know what our first laps were to where we are now but I know we are a lot faster than when we started.

It is a very challenging race track by itself and the repave is adding a whole other dynamic to it that I think we will see play out over the next two days with races that have a lot of action, a lot of sideways, a lot of spinouts and probably a lot of crashes.”

Only laps during the Zippo 200 and Cheez-It 355 will reveal how "on the button" two top Ford drivers are in their assessment.