FORT WORTH, Texas — Five NASCAR Cup cars zipped around Texas Motor Speedway at more than 200 mph in the final round of qualifying Friday.
The speeds were an increase from the spring when Kevin Harvick won the pole with a lap of 198.405 mph. The top 10 qualifiers Friday went faster than Harvick’s lap from earlier this year, led by Kurt Busch‘s pole-winning speed of 200.915 mph.
The increase was significant considering that pole speeds for Kansas and Charlotte in the playoffs decreased from the pole speeds at those tracks in the spring.
What led to the change in speeds at Texas?
“Development,’’ said Denny Hamlin, who qualified second at 200.617 mph. “I mean, that’s the biggest thing is just the development, and trust me, I don’t know of any driver that was comfortable running the speeds that we’re running right now.
“Kevin Harvick walked by as soon as that was over, he’s like, I’m glad that is over. Like it’s crazy speed. You know, you felt it at Michigan when we were qualifying, average over 200, but here it’s just ‑ I mean, it feels way faster yet.
“So yeah, the big ones will be big here for sure because of the speeds, I don’t know that it was anticipated. Any time you do testing at a race track like this, there’s never enough rubber to get the speeds up where they’re really going to be, and I think it’s just the tire gripped the track just enough, it cooled down and went shade there at the end, which picked the track speed up. But hopefully with this big turn in weather (Saturday), we’re going to get these speeds back to a comfortable range.”
Temperatures are expected to climb into the high 80s, about 15 degrees warmer than it was at the track Friday. Temperatures in the 90s are forecast for Sunday’s race. Those temperature should slow cars.
“I think we will see 200 but not as an average,’’ Busch said. “It will drop probably seven or eight mph as far as average speed drop.”
Busch didn’t mind the fast speeds Friday.
“The sensation of speed is unbelievable,’’ he said. “It is such a cool feeling to go through both ends of the race track which are very different. To go through turns three and four almost wide open and have that car literally feel like it gains speed through the corner, that is one of the best feelings. That is one thing I always tell people when they ask what the best part is about being a NASCAR driver. It is usually Friday in that first practice session jumping down into the corner at 200 mph. It is one of the best feelings in the world and we got the pole.”