Traction compound has drivers curious what Coca-Cola 600 will be like

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CONCORD, N.C. — A desperate move?

Just ask Dale Earnhardt Jr.about Charlotte Motor Speedway adding a traction compound to the upper groove in each of four corners.

“They’re going to run the road course next year, so that tells you how desperate they are,’’ Earnhardt said Thursday after Cup practice.

Whether one considers it a desperate move or something worth trying after just three lead changes in the 70-lap All-Star Race, the PJ1 traction compound used at Bristol has been applied to Charlotte’s asphalt surface. Track officials also had tires dragged hoping to make the top groove an attractive option for drivers.

After seeing Martin Truex Jr. lead 392 of 400 laps in this event last year and an All-Star Race that led some drivers to suggest it was time to move the event, track officials needed to do something to enhance the action.

Drivers tested the top groove a little during Cup practice but spent most of their time on the bottom lane since that is where they’ll run on their qualifying lap Thursday night.

“It’s kind of unchartered waters to be honest with you,’’ Ryan Blaney said before practice. “Bristol is a lot different, a lot shorter race track, we’re not going as fast, a concrete race track. You don’t know how that substance they use is going to combine with asphalt. 

“I’m wondering what it’s going to be like when we’re running 200 miles an hour into the top lane and hoping it’s hot enough to stick. So that’s gonna be a little sketchy at first, but … I thought NASCAR had to make a move on that side of it to get us off the bottom of the race track or at least give you options.’’

Kyle Busch got up in upper groove briefly in Cup practice. He anticipates the grip will be better as the weekend progresses.

“The track was really, really light to begin with,’’ said Busch, who won last weekend’s All-Star Race. “They run the tire dragon (which drags tires in hopes of helping rubber the track) around here and it doesn’t put the rubber down like it needs to.

“It seemed very dusty when we all rolled off. The cars were starting to put the rubber down and (the track) was starting to get more black as practice progressed, but if you got outside that black a little bit it seemed pretty slick. We just need to continue to make the track wider. I’m sure Xfinity cars will do that. I’m sure the Xfinity race will do that and hopefully make for a really good Sunday.’’

Earnhardt also ran through part of the traction compound.

“I got into it by accident,’’ he said. “I got loose into (Turn) 3 and ended up there. They say it takes heat to activate to get it grippy. You don’t really sense it when you’re up there today in it. I’m sure in the race when guys start running through there it will improve the speed, hopefully it does.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how that works out for the track. I certainly think that’s a good thing so we’ll see how it works out.”

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