Paul Menard ended up fastest in Friday’s lone Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series session that saw a majority of teams with little time on the track.
Menard’s No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford was among the few cars that had cleared inspection and were on the track at the start of the session at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. He posted a session-best average lap speed of 159.830 mph.
Jimmie Johnson, who was one of the drivers whose car had the most difficulty getting through inspection, went out late and ended up second-fastest (159.440 mph). That was a good sign for the 11-time winner at the track. Kevin Harvick ended up third-fastest (159.412 mph).
“I can relax a little bit more coming to this race track. With it being my best track and the love I have for this place, I’m always excited to come,” Johnson said.
“But trying to get the No. 48 car back into Victory Lane, I can take a little pressure off myself here knowing the rhythm-style and the way you drive this track and the set-up for the car.”
Kyle Busch was fourth and Brad Keselowski completed the top-five.
With less than five minutes remaining, Corey LaJoie’s No. 72 Chevrolet appeared to blow its engine, dropping fluid on the track and bring out a caution. After the clean-up, NASCAR extended the practice session by about three minutes.
Most cars had not been able to clear inspection prior to the start of the practice session and through the first 10 minutes, only 10 had made it out on the track.
Earlier in the week, NASCAR had notified teams that it would be focusing attention during inspection on Friday to the car’s splitters but yet several showed up having difficulty clearing that area of inspection before they could hit the track.
With just over 30 minutes into the session, only 24 cars had taken laps. Among those who were still experiencing problems were the teams of Martin Truex Jr., Johnson, Aric Almirola, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“There’s something that NASCAR is looking for every week,” Stenhouse said before he was able to get on track with his No. 17 Ford. “We were hoping that we’d have more than one or two runs at it.”
Ross Chastain was forced to miss the final 15 minutes of the practice session for being late to pre-qualifying/race inspection last weekend at Talladega.
|6||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||4||22.630||0.106||0.018||159.081|
|10||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||3||22.681||0.157||0.023||158.723|
|22||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Chevrolet||10||22.873||0.349||0.023||157.391|