CONCORD, N.C. — The competition package mandated for this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star race features two significant components: a single-piece carbon-fiber splitter/pan and a radiator duct in the hood of the car.
From a “feel” standpoint, however, most drivers participating in practice sessions Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway couldn’t tell much difference between the configuration they have been running at intermediate speedways so far this year and the package for Saturday’s million-dollar event (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
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But that doesn’t mean the feel was exactly the same.
“This place is just so weird, Charlotte is, as a track,” said Austin Dillon, who was strong in both Friday practice sessions at the 1.5-mile track, topping the speed chart in Final Practice. “It’s a lot different handling-wise.
“I feel like there are different things, obviously, with the splitter and how high the cars are. I think they handled a little differently in practice. Some people looked like they really struggled in traffic, but I felt like my car was decent in traffic. I feel like some of that is just getting the balance right, because we haven’t run this package.”
Though some cars benefited from the draft, particularly in the first session when the Open cars and All-Star cars ran together, Dillon believes there will still be a premium to being out front.
“I felt like clean air was still the fastest way for my car, but you could get a pull, for sure,” Dillon said. “A bigger pull, and I noticed it right off the bat running behind the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) coming to the green, that I could get a bigger pull than what we have been this year.”