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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Kurt Busch fastest in final Cup practice at Sonoma

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Kurt Busch posted the fastest single lap in the final practice for the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway with a speed of 94.061 mph.

He beat second-place Denny Hamlin (94.012 mph) by .040 seconds.

Martin Truex Jr. (93.718) had the third fastest lap, but the team will have some work to do before Saturday’s qualification. With nine minutes remaining on the clock, he ran into the back of Bubba Wallace in the esses and did significant damage to his nose. Wallace landed 34th on the chart with a speed of 91.641 mph.

Jamie McMurray (93.549) and Kevin Harvick (93.441) rounded out the top five.

Harvick (91.468) had the quickest 10-lap average – leading a sweep of the top three by Stewart Haas Racing. Busch was second quickest at 91.452 mph with Clint Bowyer third quick at 91.443 mph.

William Byron broke an axle seal in final practice, but the team was able to get him back on track with 24 minutes remaining in the session. His speed of 92.279 mph was 25th fastest.

Click here for the full report from final practice.

Friday Truck Series practice report from Gateway

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Second practice

Last week’s winner, Brett Moffitt topped the speed chart in Friday evening’s practice session for the Eaton 200 with a speed of 137.191 mph.

He beat second-place Myatt Snider (136.658 mph) by .128 seconds.

Johnny Sauter (136.608), Riley Herbst (136.355), and Ben Rhodes (136.219) round out the top five.

Herbst is making his Truck Series debut this week.

Also making his Truck debut is Zane Smith, who posted a lap of 136.120 mph to land sixth on the chart.

Christian Eckes (135.906) failed to back up his series-leading speed from the first practice session and was only ninth fastest, but he had the quickest 10-lap average of 135.039 mph.

Click here for complete results from practice 2.

First practice

Rain canceled the practice session at Gateway that was scheduled to run from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern time.

When they finally got on track, Eckes posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 134.360 mph. He is making his Truck series debut this week.

Eckes’ speed was .009 seconds faster than Noah Gragon (134.324), who landed second on the speed chart.

Rhodes (134.120), Moffitt (133.817) and Matt Crafton (133.706) rounded out the top five.

Rhodes had the quickest 10-lap average of 133.466 mph.

With the first practice canceled at Gateway, NASCAR added a final practice session scheduled for Noon – 1 p.m.

Click here for complete results from practice one.

Denny Hamlin offers advice on how to deal with critics on social media

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Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.

“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”

Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’

Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.

They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.

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Clint Bowyer leads opening Cup practice at Sonoma

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Clint Bowyer was the fastest in the first of two Cup practices Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Bowyer, the winner of the most recent Cup race two weeks ago at Michigan, posted a lap of 93.590 mph. He was followed by Ryan Blaney (93.546 mph), Joey Logano (93.172), Jamie McMurray (93.049) and Daniel Suarez (92.746).

Sixth was Jimmie Johnson (92.661). He was followed by Michael McDowell (92.650), Martin Truex Jr. (92.614), AJ Allmendinger (92.596) and Ryan Newman (92.595).

Click here for full practice report

Final Cup practice will be from 5:40 – 6:55 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place Saturday.

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