Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s new July 5 slot on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule could be a big benefit for the teams on Sunday.
After being regular season finale for the past two seasons, Indianapolis will follow-up last weekend’s doubleheader for the Cup Series at Pocono Raceway. While both tracks are shaped differently, Pocono does have some similarities to Indianapolis. With no practice or qualifying for the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400, teams will look to take some things they learned at Pocono and apply it to Sunday’s race.
"They are as similar as two tracks on our schedule probably get," said Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch, who finished fifth in the first Pocono race. "Being flat and long straightaways and a lot of the things that you make a car go fast at one place will make a car go fast at the other place. I would say setup wise in the past history they haven’t been wildly different.
"A few distinct differences because clearly Pocono has a lot more content to the track, a lot rougher, a lot bumpier than Indy. Indy is very, very smooth. They don’t spray Indy with the sticky stuff (PJ1, traction compound) like they do at Pocono and some other places so that’s a super big variable."
Turn 2 at Pocono is modeled after Indianapolis.
"I felt like we were really good in that turn last weekend," said Aric Almirola, who is coming off his fourth consecutive top five of the season. "As a driver, it always feels good to know you’re heading to a track that has a similar feel to the one you just earned a third- and fifth-place finish at."
Almirola joined Pocono winners Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin as the only drivers to finish in the top five in both races last weekend. Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer also finished in the top 10 in both.
Along with racing back-to-back weekends at tracks with similarities, teams will also be competing on Sunday with the same Goodyear tire combination that was utilized at Pocono.
"Being on the same tire and same time of year I think we’ll see everybody a lot closer at Indy than maybe they would be at the first Pocono," Stevens said.