The Sprint Cup Series took to Texas Motor Speedway Friday for a single practice session before qualifying for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, and many teams spent only short bursts of time on track, tweaking their setups for the afternoon, knowing Saturday morning brought two more chances to adjust the race trim.
But when early mornings rains brought up weepers that never fully dried until well into the afternoon, both practices were cancelled, leaving teams to stick with what they stopped with Friday. Suddenly, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, who ran the Xfinity Series race, had the advantage of 200 extra miles of track time, despite the differences in the cars.
“Situations like today are certainly ideal situations for justifying running both series, and there are other races for sure where it is the opposite,” Keselowski said in the post-race press conference after he won the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. “You kind of have to take the good with the bad on that. Today was a good day to get the extra experience of running the Xfinity Series and with the rules changes this season more closely mimicking the Xfinity cars, the repetitions are a lot closer as well. It is certainly not a disadvantage, and today was probably the most extreme advantage of running both series.”
And though Keselowski expects an advantage having run the NXS race on Saturday, he’s still unsure of how his car will react in race conditions on Sunday.
“I never ran any laps in race trim,” he said. “It’s a good thing we have all these really smart engineers and computers to figure it out. You have to have a lot of trust and confidence in your team. We were so fast in qualifying that you hope a lot of that carries over, but it is never a guarantee.”
There was a bit of confusion early in the afternoon about whether the Cup Series would see a practice session following the conclusion of the NXS race when NBC reported that NASCAR had elected to allow teams extra track time, though the sanctioning body had made no decisions at that point, later cancelling all Cup activities for the day.
“I would have liked to have seen a Cup practice tonight but there isn’t, so there’s nothing really to say further beyond that.”
Despite Keselowski’s desire to have extra practice time for Sunday’s Cup race, NXS crew chief Greg Erwin explained that “with the cars being as different as they are right now, it is probably not quite as strong as it used to be.”
“It is pretty common for all of the Cup crew chiefs especially, tire guys and engineers to be very involved in what we do the day ahead of time,” Erwin said. “There are limited things you take from that, but it is still an advantage. The cars being different and the front ends and geometry suspension makes it really hard to make that transition from what we do on the Mustang to what they do on the Fusion.”
Keselowski will lead the field to the green in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, alongside fellow Chase driver Harvick. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. local time on NBC.