Australian Owen Kelly put his #54 Monster Energy Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota fourth on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the debut of the NASCAR Nationwide Series practice on Friday.
Owen Kelly has finalized preparations for tomorrow’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio by ending practice in the top five.
The plan was for limited running in the afternoon two hour session, with a final hitout to establish a baseline for qualifying part of the plan.
Midway through the qualifying simulation, Kelly in the Monster Energy Toyota was hampered through a yellow flag period. This was his opportunity to extract the best from his fresh rubber.
Traffic made Kelly's second bite at a qualifying-style run difficult, overall he came home in sixth spot in session two. This wasn’t indicative of where the 36-year-old Tasmanian or the Joe Gibbs Racing team feel their true pace is.
Following on from yesterday's testing, more changes were made throughout the day, with Kelly reporting the car was a little loose into the first turn, but tight through the 11th turn on the famous Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Kelly finished both sessions in front of NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader, Austin Dillon, former F1 pilots Nelson Piquet Jr and Max Papis, along with a number of NASCAR Sprint Cup regulars, including his fellow Australian, Marcos Ambrose.
Tomorrow, Kelly will aim for the Coors Light Qualifying Pole Time from 9:30am local time (11:30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time), with the race getting underway from 2:30pm local (4:30am AEST).
QUOTEBOARD - Owen Kelly - #54 Monster Energy JGR Toyota:
“We’re very happy with our race setup. Today was all about getting it right for the race, we’ve continued to make changes to the Monster Energy Toyota and it’s feeling very good.
“The intention was to take it easy in the second session and setup for a qualifying run ahead of tomorrow.
“A caution period happened on the quick lap, which took the edge off the new tyres. The team sent me out again and we battled against plenty of traffic and couldn’t get a clear lap.
“The final position wasn’t an indication of our pace, I think we’re a lot better than that.
“Tomorrow will be about getting a good position from qualifying, which I think is achievable, and then in the race get the strategy working and hopefully end toward the front.”