Owen Kelly in top 20 at end of first day at The Glen
Owen Kelly ended running practice in 20th position.
Australian Owen Kelly hasn't let persistent rain hamper his first opportunity in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, buiiding speed and experience during practice, ending running in 20th position.
So tight is the field, should he have lapped just 0.2 seconds faster, the 36-year-old Tasmanian would have been in the top 10.
Kelly in his Phoenix Racing Chevrolet hovered around the 10th positon for much of the session before Carl Edwards laid down a time on new tyres that saw him 0.597 seconds clear of his closest rival. Kelly sat 20th at the end of the session, 1.077 seconds off the time of Edwards.
Having never driven a NASCAR Sprint Cup Car, or driven at Watkins Glen, the day was mostly about familiarization for Kelly.
Rain punctuated much of the running on day one at The Glen, affecting around half the track time NASCAR Sprint Cup teams were meant to be given.
His time in Final Practice edged out the likes of NASCAR stars Danica Patrick, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and multiple race winner in 2013, Matt Kenseth.
In session one, Owen completed 13 laps, finishing the session down the order. The session was about getting him comfortable with the car and race track.
A number of changes were made by the Phoenix Racing squad to the #51 machine during the session, with teams also contending with the persistent rain.
Tomorrow, Kelly will be in the second qualifying group (there are eight in total) sharing the track with David Reutimann, David Gilliland, Travis Kvapil, David Stremme and NASCAR glamour girl, Danica Patrick.
They have a quickfire five minutes against the clock to set their position for the Cheez-It 355 on Sunday afternoon (Monday morning Australian time).
QUOTEBOARD - OWEN KELLY - #51 Phoenix Construction, Phoenix Racing Chevrolet:
“It’s an incredibly competitive field right throughout, so to have my times to where I’m in the mix - I’m pretty happy.
“The car wasn’t that great off the truck, plus I was learning Watkins Glen and I have never driven a NASCAR Sprint Cup car before - so we had a fair bit to contend with.
"The Phoenix Racing team did a sensational job throughout the session throwing a whole heap of changes at the car and it was much better.
“We didn’t get the chance to go out on good rubber in the first session.
“Putting some new tyres on for the second session, the car was a lot better and we missed going out with another better set at the end, which I think there would have been a few more tenths in it, that would have put us up around the top 10.
“We lost about half the day due to rain, which was frustrating, but tomorrow we have to go and hang it all on the line.
“The times we did today are pretty respectable against a field as I said that’s super competitive. I’m confident we can make the top 20, maybe even the top 15 in qualifying if everything falls our way - all you can do is go as fast as you can and everything else will take care of itself. Overall, I’m pretty happy with today.”
On driving a NASCAR Sprint Cup Car for the first time:
“They generate around 900 horsepower, so you know they’re alive!
"For the first few laps you get used to the power and the track, but after that you just become a typical race car driver and get on with it.
“It’s a great opportunity I have here and I aim to make the most of it.”
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