Texas Motor Speedway looks different for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 and the My Bariatric Solutions 300.
Over the offseason, Texas repaved and redesigned the first and second turns. The first two turns have decreased from 24 degrees of banking to 21 degrees, while also expanding the width to 80 feet.
There were no Goodyear tire tests ran at Texas due to the repaving project finishing a few weeks ago. However, the plans are for Goodyear to use the same tire compound used at Kentucky Speedway, last year.
Cup teams will have nearly two and a half hours of practice time on Friday an a hour and 45 minute session on Saturday. Xfinity teams will have two hours and 20 minutes of practice on Friday before their race on Saturday.
Chris Buescher was the only driver to make laps on the new surface at Texas. While making those laps, Buescher’s cinematography held numerous drivers see the changes at the track. However, the video was only meant for Buescher and his JTG Daugherty Racing team.
“I’m not sure who posted it or how it got there, but I wish I had thought of that. I was trying to help our team, not everybody. But, it kind of worked out that way. We were here right after the Vegas race before they had lines on the track and just taking a look. I think the speedway did a pretty good job of paving it. It was extremely smooth,” said Buescher on Friday before practice.
When the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, the caution quickly fell as Denny Hamlin spun into turns one and two. Kyle Busch tagged the outside wall in turns one and two, but was able to fix the primary car. Things did not go so well for Erik Jones and Chase Elliott. Jones was coming off the fourth turn before his car went towards the wall resulting in a backup car. Elliott was coming off of the second turn before he spun and crashed into the outside wall before working his way to the inside wall for more damage, also going to a backup car.
Drivers were on edge during the practice session and many called the track “sketchy” throughout.
As the session progressed, speeds continued to increase as more rubber was being laid onto the racing surfacee. Before his spin, Hamlin laid down a lap at 174.053 MPH. After two hours and 27 minutes of practice, Ryan Blaney was fastest at 194.182 mph, Michael McDowell was second fastest at 194.056 mph, Buescher was third fastestest at 193.361 mph, Jones was fourth fastest at 193.154 mph, and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top-five at 192.836 mph. Over 1,000 laps were run by drivers in the session.
In 2016, the first practice session of the weekend at Texas saw Martin Truex Jr. fastest at 192.892 mph. In qualifying last year, Brian Vickers laid down the fastest speed in the first round at 196.014 mph.
The notes from previous years are no longer valid at Texas as the playing field becomes equal with the repave.