Sprint Cup drivers go 'crazy' fast
No guts, no glory … and certainly no trip to victory lane.
With the new, smooth surface of Kansas Speedway, all 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors obliterated the previous qualifying track record of 180.856 mph on Friday.
“All those drivers are high-fiving each other because we’re coming back alive,” said Kyle Busch, who posted the fourth-fastest lap (191.096 mph). “It’s fast. It’s crazy.”
Leading Friday’s parade was Kasey Kahne with a lap of 191.360 mph, his fourth pole of the season. Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Mark Martin (191.238 mph) and Clint Bowyer (191.130 mph), who qualified second and third, respectively, were awestruck by the speeds.
“I never dreamed you see these kinds of lap times,” Martin said of his banzai run. “Yeah, you have to have a pair or be dumb as hell like me.”
But for the sixth time this season, Martin, who has competed in just 21 races this year, will start from the front row. At age 53, Martin shows no signs of slowing down. And after performing the Goodyear tire test here on Aug. 28-29, he certainly should have an advantage for Sunday because of his time on the track as well as his initial track position.
With the cooler temperatures this weekend, the track has to develop a second, higher groove. Most Cup competitors watch Saturday’s ARCA and Nationwide races closely not only to ascertain the best line around the track, but also where and if there will be any place to pass.
“I think the hardest thing is just going to be passing,” said Kevin Harvick, who will start 10th on Sunday. “Hopefully, in the Nationwide race and the ARCA race, the groove gets spread out. The bottom lane is still the fastest right now, and that is going to be the way around.”
Before the repave, Jimmie Johnson had three poles and two wins at Kansas — tied with Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart for the most victories on the 1.5-miler. On Friday, the five-time Cup champ said he was “as brave as I could be” and settled for the seventh-best lap. For the rest of the weekend, Johnson is hoping the temperatures rise so rubber will be laid down on the track and the racing lanes widen. Still, initially, it will take a lot of brass to climb up the track.
“We know there’s more up grip up there with that extra banking,” Johnson said. “We just haven’t had a need to go there yet, and I think a race plus a race under sunny conditions will allow us to do that.
“It’s going to be a big guessing game. Tire wear isn’t all that high. When the track was green, we did see some tire wear, so maybe as we’re starting to work in the top lane we’ll need to put four on for the first half of the race, but I would have to assume that two tires and good fuel mileage are going to be awfully important.”
TRY, TRY AGAIN …
NASCAR met with manufacturers early Thursday morning to discuss what must be done to make the 2013 cars handle better in traffic.
Although cars were successful in single-vehicle runs, racing against other competitors was problematic — particularly at the Texas Motor Speedway race before Charlotte’s races last weekend.
Alterations to the cars on the second day of testing enabled the fastest car both days — driven by Brian Vickers — to pick up 0.477 seconds on his top laps during the two-day test. While that doesn’t appear dramatic, the two fastest times on Wednesday and Thursday with the current Cup car varied by just 0.195 second.
The next test of the new car will be at the Goodyear tire test Tuesday and Wednesday at Phoenix. Drivers will also test Nov. 6 and 7 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
10 — Races since Chevrolet last visited victory lane (with Jeff Gordon at Pocono). This is the manufacturer’s longest winless streak since 1992.
50 — of Michael Waltrip Racing’s 102 career top-10 finishes have been earned in 2012.
3 — Poles for Kasey Kahne at Kansas Speedway with three different race teams.
With the recent discussion of drivers making the call whether to race injured, Clint Bowyer was asked what it would take for him to step out of his car, particularly considering he is fourth in the Sprint Cup points standings.
“Maybe a bullet,” Bowyer said. “If they could patch that up, then I may go on. You don’t get this opportunity in life very often. You’ve worked your whole year — this is a year’s worth of work that goes into these last five races.
"It would be hard to be able to think about pulling yourself out. It just depends. There’s so many different scenarios. But at the end of the day, it comes down to safety, and there are a lot of people’s lives that depend on (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) being healthy, and not only for these five races, but for many years to come.”