CONCORD, N.C. — Even after a 60-minute practice Saturday morning, drivers were still trying to figure out what the racing would be like with the rules package for this evening’s Monster Energy All-Star Race.
NASCAR granted teams an extra session Saturday after much of Friday’s practices at Charlotte Motor Speedway were canceled by rain.
Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s session at 173.305 mph. He and others noted that handling could play a factor in the race for $1 million.
“I felt like early practice I could pass cars pretty easy,’’ Larson said. “But when the track got a little tighter, it was harder to pass.’’
Clint Bowyer, who was next on the speed chart at 173.255 mph, was struck by how the cars reacted in traffic.
“To be dead honest with you, the thing that surprised me was they didn’t pull up near as much as I thought they would,’’ he said. “I don’t know, that’s what I was hoping they would do. I think that’s what everybody was hoping they would do. I was a little bit frustrated with that. I still think you’re going to have that gaggle of cars, you know what I mean? Some excitement within there.’’
Aric Almirola also expressed surprise at what the cars didn’t do during practice.
“I think the biggest thing that surprised me was that the runs weren’t bigger,’’ said Almirola, who starts on the pole for the Monster Open preliminary race. “I thought that when we got in a pack or just even two cars, I thought the idea behind the package was for the trailing car to be able to get a big draft and get up to the lead car and be able to slingshot. I was surprised by that. It’s a little bit more sophisticated than that and the runs we were a little bit slower than I anticipated.
“I don’t know if it’s because of the race track or because of the radius of the corners are tighter, the straightaways are shorter or if it’s actually the package. I was anticipating bigger runs and more ability to do something with a run.’’
So what does that forecast for the racing Saturday night?
“From what I have seen in practice, if you want to win, you have to be in the top three spots,’’ Almirola said. “I think track position will play a part like we have seen in speedway racing the last few years.”
Joey Logano, who won this event in 2016, is certain about one thing with tonight’s race.
“We are going to crash some stuff tonight,’’ Logano said. “I think that is pretty apparent. In practice we were all pretty good at giving each other some room and making sure our cars are — at least we have a car for later on.
“I think towards the end of this race is when business picks up, I mean hey, it is the All-Star race. It is the same thing when we come here no matter what package you use. You have nothing to lose and $1 million to gain. I think every driver knows that. That whole caring about things kind of goes out the window. You think about winning the race and winning the money. That is what this is about.’’
Daniel McFadin contributed to this report