Casey Mears quickest in Richmond final practice
Casey Mears surprised the field by establishing the fastest time in Happy Hour at Richmond International Raceway on Friday.
Early in the 85-minute practice, Mears posted a lap of 120.557mph (22.396-seconds) in the No. 13 Germain Racing car.
If we could pull something off like (winning,) it would be enormous for this team
“The Geico Chevrolet has been pretty good,” Mears told Motorsport.com after completing 48 laps. “We actually feel like the car has been good since we got here. It didn’t feel like it quite had that speed but I think going out — right out of the gate — when the track was a little cooler, definitely was an advantage as far as getting to the top of the sheet.
“Outside of that, I think we have a pretty good car. I don’t know if we’re quite there, ultimately, if we would have done the lap later in the run, but it feels good to have some speed. We’ve been struggling of late, with speed. So it feels good to be in the hunt for sure.”
Kyle Larson was second fast with a lap of 120.096mph, followed by Martin Truex Jr. (119.808mph), Jamie McMurray (119.665mph), Tony Stewart (119.612mph) and Greg Biffle (119.550).
Denny Hamlin (119.247mph), Jimmie Johnson (119.432mph), Kurt Busch (119.390mph) and last year’s polesitter Joey Logano (119.358mph) rounded out the top 10 in single lap runs. Ryan Blaney, who was 16th on the speed chart, was the fastest rookie in single laps speeds (118.906mph).
Toyotas exhibited the Best 10 Consecutive Lap Averages. Carl Edwards led the group with a speed of 116.652mph, followed by Matt Kenseth (116.607mph), Hamlin (116.580mph), Kyle Busch (116.575mph) and Truex (116.514mph). Kevin Harvick was the fastest Chevy (116.485mph), followed by the Ford of Brad Keselowski (116.461mph), Johnson (116.343mph), McMurray (116.305mph) and Kurt Busch (116.304mph). Chase Elliott (18th, 115.697mph) was the fastest rookie in the category.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.s 83 laps were the most completed during final practice, but the No. 17 Ford sustained damage to the right rear of the car after falling off the jacks.
Temperatures hovered around 92-degrees during final practice but the track temperature is likely to be 30-degrees cooler in the race.
Mears says Chase berth would be a "miracle"
Still, Mears, 38, was cautiously optimistic following Happy Hour.
“This place is always hard to prepare for because it is so hot during the middle of the day — and this is exceptionally hot today and it’s going to cool off quite a bit tonight,” said Mears after practicing in the 92-degree heat. “It’s really hard to get an idea what your car is going to do in the long run just because it gets so slick here, so quick during the day.
“I felt like early on, our car wasn’t bad. The biggest thing we’re fighting is forward drive — that you always fight here during the day. Hopefully, as it cools down, we’ll hold on a little better. Balance-wise, I think we did a good job, a little loose, a little tight. If I try to tighten it up too much, it hurts the center. If I loosen it up too much it hurts the entry and exit, which is pretty typical here. We developed two packages — one, that worked for qualifying, one that was pretty good for the race. So, we’ll see how it goes.”
With Mears sitting 28th in the Sprint Cup standings, his only shot of making the Chase is with a win. In 27 starts at Richmond International Raceway, his best result was ninth in 2009.
“That would be a miracle right now, for sure,” Mears said. “Not that we can’t do it, but based on how we’ve run the last few races, if we could pull something off like that it would be enormous for this team.”
|3||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||40||22.536||0.140||0.054||119.808|
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|Location||Richmond International Raceway|