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Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Despite horsepower drop, corner speeds ‘way too high’ this season

Dale Jr. HMS photo

(Photo courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)

While NASCAR cut about 100 horsepower from Sprint Cup engines this season, corner speeds have increased.

That concerns Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth, who took a break during Wednesday’s open test at Kentucky Speedway to say corner speeds are potentially too high.

“The corner speeds are going to be higher everywhere,” Earnhardt said. “We were 18 mph faster in the middle of the corner at (Las) Vegas. I imagine we’re 10-12 mph faster through the corner here (at Kentucky).

“The corner speeds are way too high, in my opinion. We need to do everything we can to create off-throttle. We’re on the gas a lot more this year due to the less horsepower.

“And the gear, as well. We changed the gear and took a lot of gear out of the cars and that creates a lot of opportunity to be in the throttle a lot more. I think if we can figure out a way to create a little more off-throttle time in the corners, that’ll allow us to have a better race and create more passing opportunities to give us an opportunity to get runs on guys.”

Until then, it’s challenging to pass.

“If I’m racing you and we’re both in the gas wide open, I’m not going to catch you,” Earnhardt said. “I need you to lift, or one of us needs to have a little problem to be able to catch the other. If we’re all in the gas, it’s hard to do that.”

Kenseth agreed with Earnhardt’s assessment.

“Corner speeds are faster everywhere than what they were last year,” Kenseth noted. “You have less power, so your speed swings are not as much, from your minimum to your maximum. It makes it tough to pass.

“They’ve done a lot of things to make the cars faster in the last couple of years, taking weight out of them and with camber and rear ends and doing all these different things they did, so the cars are going real fast through the corners right now.”

While corner speeds continued to creep up through the course of Wednesday’s test, which was slightly delayed by brief morning rain showers, Earnhardt predicted they won’t be as high when teams return for the July 11 Quaker State 400.

“When it comes down to the race, the track changes quite a bit, it loses grip,” Earnhardt said. “You’re not going to be this fast when we come back to race.

“So the times here are a bit irrelevant, but overall this season, we’ve seen a whole lot more corner speed and a lot more throttle time, and that’s a bit in the wrong direction, in my opinion.”

There was at least one mishap during Wednesday’s test when Brett Moffitt made contact with the outside wall in Turn 4, scraping up the right side of his Toyota Camry. He drove the car back to the garage.

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