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Repaved track levels playing field at Texas





FORT WORTH — Jimmie Johnson has led 1,023 laps at Texas Motor Speedway, more than any other NASCAR Cup Series driver, and won a record six times there.

But all that was before the entire 1½-mile track was repaved, and Turns 1 and 2 were reconfigured.

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‘‘It’s a clean sheet of paper. You can’t pick a favorite right now,’’ Johnson said Friday. ‘‘Any time there is a reconfiguration, a new asphalt, it’s a total game changer.”

Even for guys like Johnson, who will make his 28th start Sunday.

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‘‘Everyone is on equal playing ground,’’ Trevor Bayne said. ‘‘Nobody has 10 years of notebooks . . . You can’t do that now. You don’t know what you need to do.’’

Kevin Harvick, who finished third in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race behind winner Erik Jones, is the pole-sitter after winning all three rounds of qualifying Friday, including a fast lap of 198.405 miles per hour. Johnson qualified 24th, making it through the first round despite a spin and then not running another qualifying lap.

On only the second lap of the nearly 2½-hour Cup practice Friday, Denny Hamlin got loose and spun through Turns 1 and 2, but was able to keep his car off the wall. Kyle Busch later made slight contact with the rear of his car against the outer wall after going too high into the wider and less-banked area on the track.

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‘‘I just missed the entry point getting into Turn 1,’’ Busch said, referring to the area in the track where the changes begin.

Chase Elliott wasn’t as fortunate, forced into a backup car after crashing the primary No. 24 Chevrolet coming out of Turn 2.

‘‘It’s going to get better, but the problem is the groove itself keeps getting better and better and better as we run in it,’’ Martin Truex Jr. said ‘‘The faster you’re going in the groove, the faster you’re going when you get out of it.’’


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