The 2023 spring Phoenix practice report features a new short-track package, some speedy veterans, and four confiscated louvers.
Best Practice Lap Times
Times varied from the 27.427 seconds laid down by Kyle Larson* to B.J. McLeod’s 28.603 seconds. The asterisk is because Larson ran one of the cars whose louvers were confiscated.
The top four drivers — Larson*, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman* and Joey Logano — stood out from the others, beating a large group of drivers running between 27.635 (Chase Briscoe) and 27.912 seconds (Christopher Bell).
Where Best Laps Were Run
The next graph shows the number of laps each driver ran in this 50-minute practice as hatched grey bars. The solid orange bars show the lap number where their fastest lap was run. I’ve listed then in the same order as the graph above: from fastest best lap to slowest.
Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick ran the most practice laps, with 59 each. They were followed by:
- Daniel Suárez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Harrison Burton (57 practice laps)
- Bowman and Brad Keselowski (55 laps)
- Tyler Reddick (53 laps)
- Christopher Bell and Aric Almirola (52 Laps)
Of more interest to me than the numbers is that the drivers with the best practice times mostly ran their fastest laps in their first three laps. That’s even though teams had two sets of tire for practice.
As you move toward the right, you can see which the struggling teams improved their cars and which didn’t.
The new short-track package decreases downforce, giving drivers a chance to find the best places for their cars to work. Less downforce means more sliding — which means tire management will be especially important during this race.
The graph below shows the consecutive lap averages for all drivers who ran below a 28-second best single lap.
Looking at the difference between any two symbols gives you an idea of the falloff . For example:
- Larson went from a 27.637 s single lap to a 28.107 s 15-lap run, for a fall off of 0.47 seconds over 15 laps. Larson ranked first in single lap time and first in 15-lap time.
- Harvick went from a 27.684 s single lap to a 28.187 s 15-lap run, for a fall off of 0.423 seconds. Although Harvick was ninth in single-lap time, he was fifth in five-lap time, fourth in 10-lap time and third in 15-lap time.
- The drivers with the least falloff tend to be the drivers on the right side of the the graph above. Bell, for example, had a 0.278-s fall off after 15 laps. He ranked 24th in fastest single-lap run, but seventh in fastest 15-lap run and fifth in fastest 20-lap run. Keepin in mind, however, that only 18 of the drivers ran 20 consecutive laps.
While Kyle Larson ranked first in every metric, I’ll just remind you that we don’t know whether the confiscated louvers played a part in his speed. We’ll have to wait for qualifying to see.
Comparison with 2022
I’ll delve a little deeper into this in another post, but the fastest lap run in practice last year was 27.462 s, by Austin Cindric. That’s 0.035 s slower than this year’s fastest lap of 27.427 s set by Kyle Larson and 0.003 seconds slower than this year’s second-fastest single-lap, run by Ryan Blaney.
Personally, I like having practices like this. It not only gives us a better idea of where cars stand, it allows drivers and their crew chiefs to use their talents to improve their cars during the weekend. That way, we’re not just rewarding the teams with the best simulations.
That’s your 2023 spring Phoenix practice report!
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