Will Sunday’s Texas Cup race mirror Saturday’s final practice session?

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Saturday’s final Cup practice showcased a large pack of cars running together, raising the question of if Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway might see that type of action.

“It does seem like here we’ve been running closer together than Fontana or Vegas or Atlanta,” Ryan Blaney said. “I think this track has a lot of grip. (Turns) 3 and 4 is easy, wide-open. (Turns) 1 and 2, you’re on the verge of like leaning on your right-rear tire to get grip, so, yeah, I could see us a little bit more packed together. It could be frustrating for us. If you’re packed together and get the lead or something and you can’t get away from that person, but that’s the way it is. 

“I do feel like we’ll be a little bit closer together. I mean, it’s going to get spread out a little bit over a 40-lap run. Good cars are going to rise to the occasion and then when the sun is out (Sunday), I think that’s going to have even more of an effect.  Everyone’s cars were driving pretty good today with it being so cold, so we’ll see.  But, yeah, I think this will be the place that you’ll see more of us kind of pack racing close together.”

NASCAR’s rules package this season is intended to keep the field closer together with the expectation that the best cars would still be the best. This package was not meant to create the type of racing that takes place at Daytona and Talladega.

Another key for Sunday’s race will be the traction compound that has been applied in the corners above the lower lane. That is being used to allow for multi-groove racing.

Denny Hamlin cautions about raising expectations for the race based on what happened in the final practice session. He notes that drivers ran in a group in practice at Las Vegas but “the race … didn’t pan out like that.”

He said that in practice cars are merging and leaving the pack and that changes the dynamics of the group.

That’s what makes for all of the practice mayhem, is people merging on and off the race track,” said Hamlin, fastest in Saturday’s final practice session. “So, I don’t think it’s necessarily indicative of what you’ll see.”

But should they be in a group, Kurt Busch, said it will be a challenging.

“Yeah, it’s pretty dirty when you’re right behind somebody,” he said. “And then as soon as you check-up, because there’s only the one little spot where we have to check-up (in Turns 1 and 2), it seems like it invites everybody in like a logjam right behind you. So, it’ll be pretty intense, I think, the way it’s all shaping up. I think what we saw in practice is what we’ll see in the race.”

Kyle Busch agrees with his brother.

“I think that’s what you’re going to see,” he said after his Xfinity Series win on Saturday. “It’s going to be interesting just to see exactly how the race plays out and what happens.”