Bank of America 500 race weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway kicked off to a hazardous start on Friday. In efforts to help improve the on-track action at the facility, Charlotte Motor Speedway put down a special sticky substance in the turns to try and help widen out the groove. The substance, most commonly called PJ1, worked well in Turns 1&2 but caused mayhem in Turns 3&4.
In Friday’s lone practice session, several competitors got loose coming off Turn 4 and slammed the outside wall. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the first to do so, pancaking the right side of his car, thus forcing the team to bring out a back-up car. Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and David Ragan also found themselves in trouble, forcing NASCAR and the track to try and dissect the issue.
According to a story by Motorsport.com, track officials reported that they had found an issue with one of the machines that put down the PJ1 on Thursday. When the machine went through Turns 3&4, it encountered an issue and didn’t spray nearly as much as it had in Turns 1&2. The track didn’t realize the issue until today, telling Motorsport.com that it was their mistake.
“It is not the same in Turn 4,” said Don Hawk of Charlotte Motor Speedway to Jim Utter of Motorsport.com. “We discovered the sprayer heads on our machine – one was partially clogged, the other was not spraying enough and there is not enough substance on the race track in Turn 4.”
“Certainly I don’t think anyone expected it to be as challenging as it was,” said competitor Martin Truex Jr. “Maybe for the future we definitely need to look at a different way to prep the track so when we go out there guys aren’t running into the wall.”
With an eventful practice session, teams headed into Bojangles’ Pole Night with the treacherous conditions on their minds. But as a surprise to some, qualifying wasn’t very chaotic. Kevin Harvick wound up atop the scoring charts in the first two rounds of Friday night’s qualifying session, but he couldn’t hold onto it in the final round. Denny Hamlin, who was fourth fastest in Friday’s lone practice session, clicked off a fast lap in the last round and knocked Harvick off the top spot.
“The day really started off really well,” said Hamlin after winning the pole. “The first time we hit the track we were P1 and just kind of ran the same lap time throughout the whole first practice and then we ran about the same lap time again in qualifying and it was enough. The good part about it with our cars it seemed like we got just a tiny bit faster each and every round when a lot of guys started backing up and that was the key for us to get the pole.”
Friday night’s pole is the 25th of Hamlin’s career and his second at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hamlin will be joined by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth, on the front row for Sunday’s race.
“Our qualifying run was good,” said Kenseth. “Obviously saved our best lap for last. Practice was very challenging today. I was probably the last one to kind of be aggressive enough and run through that stuff on the track. I was pretty conservative most of the time.”
Harvick, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson rounded out the rest of the top-10 starters for Sunday’s Bank of America 500. The race is set to get underway at 2:00PM on Sunday, with race coverage on NBC.
With concern to the track conditions, Charlotte Motor Speedway also reported to Motorsport.com that they will re-apply the PJ1 in Turns 3&4 before tomorrow’s on-track action in order to try and fix the track surface.