Denny Hamlin issued a classic “be careful what you wish for” Friday after NASCAR Cup Series practice at Circuit of The Americas.

For the first time in seven years, NASCAR officials will not throw a caution flag at the end of the stage breaks this weekend. The industry has talked about doing away with those cautions for a few seasons, the criticism being that stages eliminated strategy and made the road course racing a bit predictable.

Now that the race can unfold organically, the question becomes: What will Sunday bring?

“I think we got pressured into this one,” Hamlin said. “I think this one has the potential to get really strung out – a lot. If we do, I don’t want to hear any complaining about (it)…

“Certainly (for) road courses, this will make for more strategy, but if you are 10s behind the car in front of you and (another car is) 10s behind you, strategy is not going to matter a ton.”

Joey Logano said there is a possibility for the race to go without a caution, as the Cup race at Road America did last year (save for its stage breaks). He doesn’t see that being the case in Austin, though.

“I’ll probably eat my words on this — there is not a whole bunch of things to hit,” Logano said of the 20-turn, 3.41-mile Texas circuit. “They did a great job building this racetrack to where you can spin out…without hitting anything. There is a lot of runoff and extra pavement out there and all that. It’s really nice for those reasons.

“It can (go caution free). I doubt it will. It’ll be interesting if it does and (seeing) how the strategy will play out. I think there is a couple of ways you can play the race. We’ll wait and see.”

Another unknown, at least regarding the racing product, is the aero package. COTA is the first road course where teams will use the new rules package which includes a short spoiler and adjustments to the diffuser and engine.

“Slick” was the word drivers used to describe how it felt in practice. Martin Truex Jr. believes the lack of grip and drivers sliding around could mean more passing. Chr istopher Bell said the track felt like an ice-skating rink.

“Typically you look at places like Darlington or Richmond, Homestead even — tracks that are very slick — and it seems like guys are focused a little bit more on what they’re doing, and we see less yellows,” said Bell. “So, the potential for a green-to-checkered race is definitely there.”

What is certain is how the lack of two predetermined cautions will change how teams and drivers approach the race. Multiple drivers were quick to mention that a choice no longer has to be made between bagging points or trying to win the race.

“It’s going to be pitting the race backward and that kind of stuff,” Ryan Blaney said. “It’s something we’ve been talking about for a year or two between the drivers and NASCAR because stage breaks at road courses can jumble things up so much and it gets messy. Obviously you’re going to pit without going a lap down, so you’ve got the top five or eight fastest cars on the racetrack who think they can win — yeah, they’re not going to get stage points, and so they give up all those usually through the day, but it lines them up to win the race.

“But then sometimes you have guys who stay out and get the points who are not as good, but then you restart in the back. I think it’s going to clean it up a little bit. I think it’s right for road courses, personally. We’ll find out.”

After practice, Hamlin made a mental note about what he, as the driver, will need to do for Sunday.

“I said to myself coming in after practice that I better stay hydrated on this one,” Hamlin said. “It’s going to definitely be tough physically if it stays green.”

He also echoed what Austin Cindric said earlier this week about COTA being a physically demanding track.

“It definitely is, for sure,” he said. “It’s got some technical parts. It’s got long straightaways. You have to hit your marks everywhere around this racetrack, or else time really can compound. So, agree with that.”

Logano isn’t worried about not being able to go the distance but thinks drivers are going to feel the difference in not having two expected cautions.

“The cars are hot,” the 2022 champ said. “I guess if you’re not in shape and not ready for it and not prepared, you probably shouldn’t go drinking the night before the race.

“I feel fine about it, but I do think it’ll be exhausting for sure. I think at the end, you’ll be tired.”