As expected, grip on the newly repaved Michigan International Speedway surface has been good this week.
Very good, in fact.
“The track is amazing,” Carl Edwards said. “I can’t believe how much grip it has. It is also a little bit forgiving. We got the car sideways a couple of times, and it doesn’t seem as treacherous as some of the other repaves.
“Obviously, the speeds will be huge, and, hopefully, we can race. Hopefully, there are a couple lanes, and we can get two-wide and run at this speed.”
Edwards said Saturday qualifying (1 p.m., ET, SPEED) for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 will be a key because track position could be very important.
“I think qualifying will be really important because the speeds might be really high,” he said. “The groove will be narrow, and it could be really important to have track position for the first part of the race.”
Edwards said drivers’ crossing of the 200-mile-per-hour barrier this week is a boost for racing.
“I think it is pretty cool,” he said. “The first run yesterday was the first time I had been on the new surface, and the data screen in the car wasn’t working. The miles per hour [gauge] – it was reading 60-something the whole time. I made my first run, came in and went out for the second run. I look up there halfway down the front straightaway, and it said 206 or 207, and I thought it was still all messed up.
“It was a little bit of a shock to realize we were really going that fast. I had never looked at the screen and seen 200 mph when you get on the straightaway. That to me is really fast. It doesn’t feel that fast.
“I told somebody that when they did the repave they didn’t have to make the track smaller. He said, ‘What do you mean?’ and I explained that we are going so fast that it feels like a smaller race track. It doesn’t feel like a two-mile race track. It is just amazing how fast we are going. To me, that is kind of uncharted territory to be going that fast.”
Edwards said his team has not had tire problems during testing and practice this week but said it will pay to be alert for such things in Sunday’s race.
“We will keep track of it and try to do a long run and we will watch those Nationwide cars (Saturday),” he said. “They make a ton of force in the corners and put a lot of load on the tires. It will be something we all watch.
“We can probably adjust the cars and watch what goes on and see who is the weakest link. You don’t want to be the first guy to blow the tire. If one guy blows, then everyone is on guard. It adds another variable to the race. It seems like it will still be OK. We haven’t had any trouble with the 10-lap runs we have made.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.