Texas Motor Speedway is set to roll out the recent changes to the track this weekend for the My Bariatric Solutions 300 for the Xfinity Series and O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. This marks the first time the racing surface at the 1.5-mile superspeedway has been changed since the track opened in 1997.
Among the changes is an entirely new racing surface as well as a completely repaved pit road. There were also changes to turns one and two. The banking in those two turns was decreased from 24 degrees to 20 degrees, with the racing surface widened by 20 feet.
With the recent changes, many were expecting the track qualifying record to fall, a record set by Matt Kenseth in 2014 with a speed of 199.299 mph. Kevin Harvick won the pole for Sunday’s race with a speed of 198.405 mph fell just short of the record.
With no testing conducted on the new pavement, drivers were unsure what to expect when they finally hit the track for first practice on Friday morning. That dilemma was settled rather quickly when Denny Hamlin was the first car off of pit road, then abruptly spun in turn two on his second lap. Hamlin was able to keep his No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry out of the wall and drive it back to the garage area.
Others finding trouble on the new asphalt were Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott, both of which will be going to backup cars for Sunday’s race.
As Friday wore on, with two Xfinity Series practice sessions, an extended Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice and qualifying, most cars found it hard to get off the bottom of the track. A second groove never opened up, which is the norm for new repaves, and should make passing near impossible for the races this weekend.