Kyle Larson leads opening Southern 500 practice at Darlington
Kyle Larson was fastest in first practice at Darlington Raceway on Friday.
Larson posted the top single-lap speed of 172.786mph while making a qualifying run on Lap 24. The driver of the No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevy, who will make his fourth appearance in the Southern 500 on Sunday, scored a career-high third-place result at Darlington last season.
“Darlington is a really fun track to race, but a tough place to drive too,” Larson said. “We tested there last month and had a good session, so hopefully that translates into a good race for us this weekend.
“With the playoffs only two races away, Darlington is a great place to start getting focused in on what need to do over the next few weeks. We ran well at Darlington last season, so I think we have a good chance to contend this weekend in the Credit One Bank Chevy.”
Denny Hamlin was second followed by Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman. Busch’s 61 laps were the most completed during the 85-minute session.
Ryan Blaney was the first car on the track and laid down a lap of 170.863mph after his first five-lap run. Within the first five minutes, Keselowski vaulted to the top of the speed chart with a lap of 172.594mph followed by Kevin Harvick (171.860mph), Kahne (171.848mph), Elliott, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Blaney and Aric Almirola.
Just after the six-minute mark, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. bounced up to second-quick with a lap of 171.886mph. Matt Kenseth made his initial run and posted the sixth-fastest laps — 171.594mph.
Jimmie Johnson was the 33rd car to make a lap after the first 10 minutes, he was 19th. Elliott returned to the track 12-minutes in and bumped Kenseth for sixth (171.734mph). One minute later, Denny Hamlin took the top spot with a speed of 172.644mph.
NASCAR released Reed Sorenson, Corey LaJoie and Michael McDowell from 15-minute holds for being late to qualifying inspection.
After the first 25 minutes, 39 cars had posted laps. Hamlin held onto the top spot followed by Keselowski, Stenhouse, Harvivck, Kahne, Elliott, Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Newman and Jones.
“I’m pretty tight at the bottom of 3 and 4,” Hamlin said after 17 laps. “I have to use the whole racetrack.”
Just before the 45-minute mark, Kyle Larson jumped up to third (172.257mph) after 22 laps. Hamlin and Keselowski remained first and second. Stenhouse was fourth followed by Harvick, Kahne, Elliott, Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Newman.
Larson jumped to the top of the speed chart (172.786mph) on a flyer run just after the first hour of practice. Hamlin dropped to second followed by Keselowski, Stenhouse and Harvick.
Hamlin led the Best 10 Consecutive Lap category with a speed of 169.098mph. Larson was second (168.251mph) in best 10-lap runs followed by Kurt Busch (167.638mph), Kyle Busch (167.029mph), Clint Bowyer (166.509mph), Martin Truex Jr., Kenseth, Suarez, Blaney and Keselowski.
|4||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||35||28.608||0.193||0.114||172.399|
|12||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||50||28.738||0.323||0.029||171.619|
|18||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||42||28.863||0.448||0.035||170.876|
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