Beware crossing the seams at Auto Club Speedway

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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.”



Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.