At least one Cup team was surprised by what Kansas Speedway had in store for it Friday during two practice sessions for tonight’s race on the 1.5-mile track.
With the 550 horsepower and aero ducts package in use this weekend, Kurt Busch said the track is “acting completely different than what we thought.”
Busch, who was fastest in final practice, said Chip Ganassi Racing’s expectations were based on its notes from the last race on a 1.5-mile track, at Texas Motor Speedway in March.
“Our group at Ganassi feels this is almost like Vegas and that was from (early) March,” Busch said. “We are jumping back two months, but we have also learned so much since March.”
Busch observed how different the levels of tire wear will be based on where cars are in the field.
“This week, the horsepower is down, so it comes back more into drafting,” Busch said. “If you are out there in clean air, you hardly have an issue with tire wear. When you are in dirty air and you are back in the pack, you are working twice as hard and your tire wear really increases. The rich get richer or the fast get faster.”
Joey Logano thinks teams will experience a “mixed bag,” similar to Michigan International Speedway.
“You may have some guys that think handling is important and some guys think getting the drag out is important,” Logano said. “Maybe in the middle is where you want to be. Maybe one way or the other is where you want to be. I think those are the things we will learn here this week. How far one way or the other do you want to be when you come to a race track like Kansas compared to a place like Texas or California, Vegas, Kentucky, you name it.”
The cooler temperatures expected for Saturday (58 degrees at start time) also have teams anticipating cars will race closer together.
“It was surprising how much we were lifting actually in that draft,” Logano said of practice. “When you get to a night race it will bring the pack closer together. It used to be the other way around. When we were lifting a lot, we wanted the track temperature to be hot and to rubber up a lot so that it would get really wide and we could move around and do all this stuff. Now you want it cooler so that you are more wide open and that is what brings the cars closer.”
But, Chase Elliott was quick to caution that the racing won’t look like what’s seen at Talladega and Daytona with pack racing.
“It’s still going to have to be (about) where the guy in front of you isn’t, to where you have your car in fresh air, which is always important at these places,” Elliott said. “Like I said, the corner speeds are still pretty high so we’re still not going slow enough to create that kind of racing.”
Pole winner Kevin Harvick agrees with Elliott.
“I don’t think it is going to be one big pack,” Harvick said. “You will see that for seven, eight or 10 laps on a restart like you did at Texas. You have multiple lanes here. As you run through the night, I think you will see tire strategy. I don’t think the tire fall off will be near as bad as in the past. There will still be some there but we haven’t seen a lot today and it will be cooler tomorrow night. I think the exact style of race it is hard to tell you because the conditions are going to be different when it is dark.”