If NASCAR polled drivers to rate the degree of difficulty involved in racing at every track without practice or qualifying after a long layoff, Darlington could win in a runaway.
That’s the view of Brad Keselowski, who said he walks back into the Monster Energy Cup Series this Sunday trying to tame Darlington’s 1.366-mile track with an abundance of caution.
“I don’t know if you could pick a tougher track,” Keselowski said of prepping for Sunday’s Real Heroes 400 in South Carolina.
The Darlington track features a slightly egg-shaped design, as an oval with one end narrower and with steeper banks than the other end.
Eight races have been missed on the NASCAR schedule since the coronavirus pandemic shut down professional sports and majority of the country in March.
Some have picked up iRacing, a virtual facsimile of getting behind the wheel of a stock car, but Keselowski said that practice is much more about aesthetics than approximating an actual race from a driver’s perspective.
“The tactics are not the same. It looks pretty good, the graphics are pretty cool, but the way the cars drive is not the same. The way the race slows is not the same. Everything about it is much, much different,” Keselowski said in an NBC Sports interview Thursday. “So the problem with that is if you’ve had success with some of the simulators or the internet events, you build almost a false sense of confidence. And that false sense of confidence, when you get on the real race track, can be a big problem.
“So there’s a lot of drivers that have been putting a lot of time behind the simulator, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”
Getting racing rolling again will be a slow progression that doesn’t include practice or qualifying until at least June.
Keselowski won in 2018 at Darlington, was fifth in 2019 and second in 2015. He has reason to arrive Sunday with confidence. But how much faith and trust will he have in his competition not being rusty?
“Very little to none,” he said.
–Field Level Media