Joey Logano has very clear advice when it comes to navigating the rough track surface at Auto Club Speedway.
“You better pick a lane and stick to it. That is how this place works,” Logano said Friday at the 2-mile track.
Auto Club’s 23-year-old pavement – in place since the track opened in 1997 – has been worn down into a multi-groove surface that has lots of character. That includes seams that are covered by sealant in order to keep the track from tearing up.
The combination of seams and sealer will be tricky for drivers in today’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox).
“The seams here are very wide and have that sealer in there and that sealer isn’t very grippy at all,” said Logano, who described the width of the seams as four inches or more.
“Our tires aren’t that wide, so you think about how you are losing a lot of your grip,” Logano said. “I don’t know if you guys have ever walked on the race track here but if you find the seams, you can stick your finger right through the sealer. It is really soft and squishy and I don’t know how it even works but I guess it does. You can tell that there is going to be way less grip on those just by touching it.
“So when you have a fairly narrow tire going across something that is four or six inches long, you are losing the majority of your grip and you kind of get stuck on them to where you can’t get lower in the corner and you almost just have to bail and get above it to where you can get your right sides (tires) back on asphalt.”
Logano, who starts seventh in today’s race, said a lot of passes are made at Auto Club when a car arches down into a corner and reaches the last seam and its momentum is stopped, resulting in the car missing the bottom of the track.
“The car behind them is able to make the bottom and make a pass that way,” Logano said. “You have to be smart when you cross them.
“Especially leaving (Turn) 2, you cross over them so quickly that your car really just wants to take off. The seams are tough. They have been there awhile though and it gives this place plenty of character to try to work around. This place has more little details like that that a driver and team needs to overcome more than maybe any other track we go to when it comes to bumps, seams, the surface wearing out, different lines. It is really hard to practice here and know what you need for the race and what lanes you are going to be racing.”
Matt DiBenedetto, who starts 12th today, noted every driver has to cross the seams at “some point.”
“For the majority of the corner you do not want to lay your right sides on them or else it feels terrible,” DiBenedetto said. “You have to be so precise. It is inches of where you run your car here line wise. It is really sensitive.”