By: Toby Christie, Editor – Follow on twitter @Toby_Christie
FORT WORTH, Texas — NASCAR has reduced downforce on the race cars in recent years, and Texas Motor Speedway knocked the banking down on one set of the turns at their 1.5-mile speedway, so you would expect naturally that cars would be pacing around at a slower clip. However, in Friday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, five drivers eclipsed the 200-mile-per-hour barrier and shattering the old track qualifying record.
While the speed chart is exciting for fans, some drivers left the session a little shook by the incredible speeds that they were running in the session.
“I don’t know of any driver that was comfortable running the speeds that we’re running right now,” second-place qualifier Denny Hamlin said. “Kevin Harvick walked by as soon as that was over, he’s like, I’m glad that is over. Like it’s crazy speed. You know, you felt it at Michigan when we were qualifying, average over 200, but here it’s just ‑‑ I mean, it feels way faster yet.”
Pole-winner Kurt Busch, who ran in the Indianapolis 500 a few years ago enjoyed the exhilarating speed.
“The sensation of speed is unbelievable. It is such a cool feeling to go through both ends of the race track which are very different,” Busch said. “To go through turns three and four almost wide open and have that car literally feel like it gains speed through the corner, that is one of the best feelings. That is one thing I always tell people when they ask what the best part is about being a NASCAR driver. It is usually Friday in that first practice session jumping down into the corner at 200 mph. It is one of the best feelings
in the world and we got the pole today.”
The speeds should ratchet down the remainder of the weekend as teams transform their cars from qualifying trim into race trim, but qualifying speed will be something to remember as the Cup Series heads back to Texas next spring. Texas has always been a treacherous track for drivers, but at those speeds any slight mishap could turn into something much larger than a crumpled fender.
Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR