‘Edgy’ practice session paints daunting picture at Dover
DOVER, Del. -- The Next Gen car’s Dover debut has Cup drivers on edge entering Sunday’s race.
Saturday’s practice saw five drivers crash during the day’s two 17-minute sessions: William Byron, Josh Bilicki, Tyler Reddick and rookies Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton.
Asked if his No. 8 Chevrolet received damage following two on-track incidents, Reddick offered the most candid response.
“Oh yeah. Back bumper, the right side. I’m pretty sure I’ve wet myself in the seat a few times so we’re gonna have to put a new insert in it too,” Reddick said with a laugh. “More to come.”
Reddick may have been able to joke away some of his struggles, but the crashes justified early nerves expressed by the drivers even before they got onto the racetrack.
Last week’s winner Ross Chastain and defending series champion Kyle Larson both expressed uneasiness before hopping into their cars for practice Saturday.
“I think probably all us drivers are a little nervous before we go out for this practice session ...,” Larson said. “It’s been edgy, and this place is already naturally edgy getting into the corner, so I think we could see some cars crash but it’s pretty cold and should hopefully have more grip than if it was hotter.”
Reddick spun once and later contacted the wall exiting Turn 2 while following Ty Dillon. The two-time Xfinity champion was less than pleased with his car.
“As of right now, I just need to survive the race,” Reddick said. “I mean I’m not even gonna make the end of Stage 1 the way this weekend’s been going for us.
“Something’s really, really wrong. I like things that are hard to drive, but this is beyond that.”
Byron and Bilicki suffered the hardest hits and will start Sunday’s race in backup cars. In Group A’s session, Bilicki got loose at the exit of Turn 2 and slammed into the inside wall nose-first, destroying the front of the No. 77 Chevrolet.
Byron crashed at the beginning of Group B’s session, when an overconfident drive into Turn 3 sent the No. 24 Chevrolet sideways and slamming into the Turn 3 wall. Byron took full blame for his crash but noted the aerodynamic changes from the previous car to the Next Gen car still provide a learning curve.
“This track is one of those that you rely on downforce the most. Downforce and sideforce,” Byron said. “So the fact that we have no sideforce on entry now with a symmetrical car, it’s the place where that’s going to be the biggest penalty. Not surprised that it happened, but there’s a lot of things I could’ve done to not make it happen.”
Erik Jones, who qualified 25th, fears passing will be a significant challenge Sunday.
“It’s always tough to pass here,” Jones said. “And seeing what we’ve struggled with a bit. I don’t know, hopefully we can pass. I mean I hope we can pass. I just think it’s going to be tough (Sunday) for sure with as edgy as the cars are and the way Dover’s raced the last few years, it’s going to be tough.”
Logano’s TV time no small factor
Of the 10 Xfinity Series races this season, Joey Logano has joined FOX Sports to broadcast seven. The only ones he missed were Daytona, Martinsville and Talladega.
To contribute to the television side of NASCAR has been a conscious decision for Logano, who at age 31 is already in his 14th full-time Cup season.
“It’s something I would like to do some day when I retire,” Logano said, “but I’ve got a long ways before that. Not too soon, but I enjoy doing it while I can.”
Logano is also keen on contributing to the growth of NASCAR in part of creating what he hopes is one day a Hall of Fame career.
“To me, that’s what a Hall of Famer is, right? And a goal of mine is to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Logano, the 2018 Cup champion. “I don’t believe you are a Hall of Famer if you just win races and leave. That’s just taking and not making the sport a better place than it was when you got there. That, to me, is how you define a Hall of Famer.
“Everyone has their own ways of defining what that is, but I think if you’ve found a way to make the sport better than it was when you got here for the next generation, that’s deserving.”
Toyota talks continue for Busch
One week after stirring controversy over whether he would return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023, Kyle Busch said he, Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota spoke further this past week.
Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson told NBC Sports last week Busch’s comments left him a “little disappointed,” but Busch indicated all parties have cleared the air.
Busch, who wore a T-shirt with the word, “clickbait,” sprawled across his chest, was asked at Talladega where he stood in contract discussions with JGR: “I’m not getting antsy about it. If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, it don’t. Goodbye.”
“It frustrates me that short comments are sometimes taken out of context,” Busch said at Dover. “I answered the questions and didn’t elaborate, and it takes elaboration to kind of fully tell a story. So you can tell the story as you want with less words.”
“Lot of stories this week,” he added, clearing his throat and gesturing to his T-shirt.