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MENCS: Practice and Qualifying Fields Shook Up at Texas

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The repave at Texas Motor Speedway has been quite the talk all week with the MENCS and XFINITY Series heading to the Lone Star State this week. With so much uncertainty drivers nor fans knew what to expect.

Friday’s first MENCS practice was extended to two-hour’s and 25 minutes to provide teams and drivers extra time to practice on Texas Motor Speedway’s new configuration. The new configuration includes new pavement, new drainage systems, as well as re-profiled banking in Turns 1 and 2, lowered from a 24-degree grade to 20 degrees.

Any fan who saw the first practice results probably took a double take on where some of the smaller teams ended up. Michael McDowell driver of the No. 95 WRL General Contractors Chevrolet for Texas-based Leavine Family Racing finished first practice in the second position clocking in at 194.056 mph. This showing is clearly McDowell’s best practice of the 2017 season.

After practice McDowell took to Twitter to express how proud he was of his team. “Maybe we should repave all the tracks. Proud of my @LFR95 team. We have a really fast @TeamChevy with big @ECR_Engines power. Ended up P2,” McDowell said.

Chris Buescher driver of the No. 37 Scott’s Products Chevrolet for JTG-Daugherty Racing finished first practice in the third position clocking in at 193.361 mph. I wouldn’t say it was much of a surprise to see Buescher have the speed he had as he is carrying momentum from his 11th place finish last weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

Ryan Blaney driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft /Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center for Wood Brother’s Racing would end up leading the first practice clocking in at 194.182 mph.

The new repave wasn’t too kind to some drivers like Chase Elliott driver of the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott made hard contact with the wall exiting Turn 2 with less than five minutes remaining in the opening session.

“Just made a mistake and got too high off Turn 2. Got into the fence and ran out of room. With new repaves we have to have a tire that can withstand the speed and when that happens it just makes it real on edge and that is just part of it. Not an excuse, just made a mistake.” Elliott said.

Qualifying shook up the field as well as some of the smaller teams have some of their best starting positions of the season.

Kevin Harvick driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford for Stewart-Hass Racing who topped the leader board in all three rounds of Coors Light qualifying won the Coors Light Pole for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 after clocking in at 198.405 mph. The pole is Harvick’s 19th MENCS pole of his career and makes Harvick the only repeat pole-sitter this season.

Ryan Blaney who topped opening practice earlier in his No. 21 for Wood Brothers Racing will start in the second position after clocking in at 198.020 mph.

Michael McDowell who finished first practice in the second position looked poised to start in the top ten but will ultimately start in the 13th position after getting pushed out of the top 10 during qualifying.

There were a couple other surprising drivers who have great starting positions as well.

Landon Cassill driver of the No. 34 Loves Travel Stops Ford Fusion for Front Row Motorsports who will start 15th, his best start this year.

“I’m really proud of that lap,” Cassill said after qualifying.

Rookie Ty Dillon driver of the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet for Germain Racing will start in the 14th position.

“Good job, guys. I appreciate it,” Dillon said.

Nine cars missed qualifying after not passing inspection in time and will start Sunday’s race from the back. Those drivers are; Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Chris Buescher, Derrike Cope and Timmy Hill.

If practice and qualifying are any indication than Sunday’s racing will be sure to shake up the normal running order of the field. This repave seems to be very kind to the smaller teams or underdogs as their better known. It certainly should make for some great racing, and deep down wouldn’t we all love to see some of these smaller teams running in the top 10-15 on the lead lap? I know I would.

Written by Sarah Handy

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About Sarah Handy

Sarah Handy is a NASCAR writer. You can find her on Twitter at @sahsports4883. A college student studying in the Legal field, and an Electronics Associate at Walmart. Sarah enjoys tweeting about racing, running, reading, and photography. Born and raised in Rhode Island, Sarah avidly follows all major New England Teams (Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins & Celtics) as well as a huge fan of what she considers her home track New Hampshire Motor Speedway which she attends the September race each year.

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