FORT WORTH, TX – The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams have an interesting scenario ahead of them for this weekend’s AAA Texas 500 (3 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). See, Friday produced the only two practice sessions of the weekend around the 1.5-mile track. The only other on track time other than Sunday’s race was qualifying on Saturday night.
But, with this format in the past, we’ve seen the top team elect to spend all of their time figuring on the best race setup and even qualifying on it. See, they feel like with these races being impound events, why not qualify what you’re going to race?
So, they’ve given away speed in return for not having to start the races behind. Just look at how quickly the drivers who went for all out speed dropped through the pack. David Ragan qualified second a few weeks ago at the Kansas Speedway and just a few laps into the race he was already down to 25th.
Also, look at the starting positions of the top 10 drivers in the finishing order at each of the last two 1.5-mile tracks. Both Las Vegas and Kansas had this same format.
Vegas, saw 24th place starter Martin Truex Jr. win. Three of the top five finishers came from 18th or worse. In fact, here’s the top 10 finishers’ starting spots – 24th, 3rd, 18th, 8th, 23rd, 19th, 14th, 15th, 22nd and 17th respectively.
Kansas, saw 23rd place starter Denny Hamlin win. Three of the top five finishers also came from 18th or worse. Here’s the top 10 finishers’ starting spots in that race – 23rd, 14th, 18th, 15th, 25th, 11th, 20th, 21st, 40th and 12th respectively. The top finisher for a driver who started in the top 10? It was Kyle Larson in 14th. He’s the only driver who started in the top 10 to even finish in the top 19.
So, Texas would seem simple right?
No in fact.
What if I told you that 15 of the last 17 and 17 of the last 21 races at Texas has seen the race winner come from a top 10 starting spot?
That’s why practice on Friday was interesting to say the least. Which direction do you go in?
Qualifying on Saturday showed that the big teams elected to work on q sims too and elect for track position and play the game of adapting all day on Sunday in turn to get their cars dialed in as the race goes on.