Laps over 200 mph at Texas prove breathtaking for drivers

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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.”

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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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Kyle Larson: ‘I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing’

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Kyle Larson‘s comment on Twitter earlier this week that he would like to run full-time in the World of Outlaws sprint car series “before I’m 40” might have riled some fans, but Larson says it was not meant as anything bad toward NASCAR.

“I don’t know, I think maybe some people aren’t quite as open-minded, maybe,” the 26-year-old Larson said Friday at Sonoma Raceway. “It’s like they read it as if I said in two years from now I wanted to do it. I mean 15 years from now that would put me 20 years in Cup. So, that is a long time. 

“I think Jeff Gordon spent about that much time in the sport (Gordon raced in Cup 23 full-time seasons), but I don’t know, maybe I don’t do the best job in the world of talking about how much I love NASCAR as much as I do sprint cars, but I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing.

“I enjoy sprint cars, and I feel like I talk about sprint cars a lot just to open people’s eyes to that style of racing because it’s a great form or racing and so is NASCAR. So, I don’t know, I just want fans to be fans of motorsports not just NASCAR and not just sprint cars. I would like to see everybody just enjoy all of racing and I think that is what I do. Maybe I don’t do a good job at it sometimes, but you know, I enjoy racing all types of vehicles. Most fans get it, but some fans aren’t quite open-minded enough.”

It was on the official World of Outlaws podcast in December where Larson expressed his desire to eventually transition to the World of Outlaws.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said on that podcast in the offseason. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal.”

Larson just finished running five nights of Ohio Sprint Speedweek. He won two of those nights. Rain postponed a sixth event before the feature that Larson was to have run. Larson said he has the dirt track race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his schedule. Indianapolis is building a quarter-mile dirt track inside Turn 3 to run during the NASCAR weekend there in September.

Larson is in his fifth full Cup season. He has five career series wins. Although winless this season, Larson has finished runner-up three times (Auto Club Speedway, Bristol and Pocono).

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Four Cup cars to be docked practice time at Sonoma

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Four cars will miss time in today’s opening practice at Sonoma Raceway for violations, NASCAR announced Friday.

David Ragan will miss 30 minutes for failing inspection before the race at Michigan three times.

Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne each will be docked 15 minutes for failing inspection twice before the Michigan race.

Today’s opening Cup practice goes from 2:40 – 3:55 p.m. ET.

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