Blaney tops crash-filled practice at Texas Motor Speedway

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Blaney tops crash-filled practice at Texas Motor Speedway
Lee Spencer
By: Lee Spencer
Apr 7, 2017, 6:40 PM

The Monster Energy Cup Series drivers tested the new surface at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday.

Ryan Blaney was the first driver to exceed the 194-mile-per-hour mark with a lap of 194.182mph. Michael McDowell, better known for his 2008 highlight reel at the 1.5-mile track, was second quick with a speed of 194.056mph followed by local favorite Chris Buescher (193.361mph), Erik Jones (193.154mph) and AJ Allmendinger. 

Early issues

A trio of Toyotas had trouble starting with Denny Hamlin. After completing one lap of 31.025-seconds, Hamlin spun going into Turn 1 in the opening minutes of practice. 

“This baby is ice,” Hamlin said. “No (freaking) grip. (Crap) show engaged.” 

The scheduled two hour and 25-minute session returned to green after clean up. By the 20-minute mark, 23 drivers had taken times with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on top with a speed of 179.271mph (30.122-seconds). Stenhouse was one of six drivers receiving 15-minute practice holds from inspection infractions. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Ty Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto were also penalized.

Keselowski posted the top speed of 181.281mph, 25-minutes in but as drivers became more comfortable with the track, the speeds rose. Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch and Stenhouse leap-frogged over the No. 2’s time. 

Kyle Larson was fastest 40-miutes into the session (184.363mph, 29.170-seconds), but was quickly passed by Ryan Blaney (28.933-seconds, 14 laps), Stenhouse and Kyle Busch. 

“It’s hard to tell what your car is doing,” Blaney said. “It changes every single run.”

Blaney, Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell and Bayne had the fastest speeds 50-minutes into practice. 

After the first hour, Larson’s lap of 28.498-seconds topped Kyle Busch’s best run of 28.698-seconds (187.637mph). Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five speeds. 

Larson remained on top at the 75-minute mark — but lowered his time to 28.238-seconds. Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Buescher completed the top-five speeds followed by Jones, Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., and Ty Dillon.

“It’s very slick but it’s getting faster,” Buescher said.

The second caution was called when Landon Cassill brushed the wall between Turns 1 and 2, 85 minutes into the session, His best lap at that time was 29th quick — 28.962-seconds. 

With an hour remaining in the extended session, Larson’s time held for first on the speed chart followed by Kyle Busch, Elliott, Blaney, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Keselowski, Johnson, Buescher and Jones. 

Jamie McMurray was the fastest car in qualifying trim after one hour and forty minutes — 38.162-seconds — followed by Aric Almirola, Larson, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. A few minutes later, Buescher jumped to the top (28.145-seconds). 

Kyle Busch gets into the wall

Just before the one hour, 45-minute-mark, Kyle Busch slid into Turn 1 receiving slight, right-rear damage to the No. 18 car. The Joe Gibbs Racing crew considered going to a backup car but decided against it.  

“I just missed the entry going into 1,” Busch said. “My right rear was just hung over the black edge into the dirt. As soon as I turned off, it was gone. I was chasing it from entry. It was a really fast car. Oh well.”

Busch was evaluated and released from the Infield Care Center. 

Buescher’s lap of 191.864mph was still fastest, until Jones posted a time of 27.957-seconds.

When the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing team asked Jones if he was still breathing, he replied, “Yes, this is right up my alley.”

With 20 minutes remaining in the session, Blaney took the top spot with a lap of 194.182mph (27.809-sec.) after 28 laps 

Jones pounds the wall

Two hours and four minutes into the session, Jones got out of the groove and into the Turn 4 wall. At the time, he was fourth on  the speed chart (27.957-sec.). The No. 77 crew pulled out a back-up car. Jones was evaluated and release from the Infield Care Center.

“It was our second mock run and after the first run, I got a little too comfortable,” Jones said. “We’ll get our back up car ready and hopefully we’ll be just as fast.”

Practice resumed with 15-minutes remaining and Blaney, McDowell, Buescher, Jones and AJ Allmendinger holding on to the top-five speeds. 

Elliott destroys primary car

Chase Elliott was the next casualty with 10 minutes remaining in the session. Elliott got out of the black coming off of Turn 2 and  spun into the inside wall. 

“Just got out of the groove there off (Turn) 2 and got too high and got the wall,” Elliott said. “Then had too much wheel in it going the other way, so just a mistake on my end. I hate it. I thought our car was pretty good, so hopefully this one will be just as good if not better.”

Practice returned to green with 90-seconds remaining. NASCAR added two minutes, however, Blaney lap held up for the fastest in single lap speeds. Larson, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Stenhouse and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10 single-lap speeds.

Only four drivers posted Best 10 Consecutive Lap Averages. Kyle Larson led the category with a run of 187.312mph, followed by Elliott (186.148mph), Jimmie Johnson (182.561mph) and McDowell (173.801mph).

Cla#DriverManufacturerLapsTimeGapIntervalMph
1 21 united_states Ryan Blaney  Ford 29 27.809     194.182
2 95 united_states Michael McDowell  Chevrolet 27 27.827 0.018 0.018 194.056
3 37 united_states Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 28 27.927 0.118 0.100 193.361
4 77 united_states Erik Jones  Toyota 27 27.957 0.148 0.030 193.154
5 47 united_states A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 36 28.003 0.194 0.046 192.836
6 42 united_states Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 50 28.011 0.202 0.008 192.781
7 3 united_states Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 23 28.041 0.232 0.030 192.575
8 1 united_states Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 35 28.068 0.259 0.027 192.390
9 17 united_states Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 36 28.111 0.302 0.043 192.096
10 4 united_states Kevin Harvick  Ford 33 28.125 0.316 0.014 192.000

CLICK HERE for complete practice results

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