Fords, Toyotas fast in opening practice

Clint+Bowyer%2C+driver+of++No.+14+Haas+Automation+Ford+Stewart-Haas+Racing%2C+paced+the+first+practice+with+a+speed+of+180.152+mph+and+a+time+of+30.774+seconds.+Teammate+Aric+Almirola+placed+second+behind+Bowyer+with+a+speed+of+179.998+mph+and+a+time+of+30.802+seconds.

Katie Linkner

Clint Bowyer, driver of No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Stewart-Haas Racing, paced the first practice with a speed of 180.152 mph and a time of 30.774 seconds. Teammate Aric Almirola placed second behind Bowyer with a speed of 179.998 mph and a time of 30.802 seconds.

Jenna Sanders, Sports Editor

Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, topped the only Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice of the day with a top speed of 180.152 mph and a time of 30.774 seconds.

The way the format is today it’s all about qualifying trim, so I’m happy with the speed in the car.”

— Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford

Bowyer’s teammate Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, placed second with a top speed of 179.998 mph and a time of 30.802 seconds.

“The way the format is today it’s all about qualifying trim, so I’m happy with the speed in the car,” Bowyer said. “We just have to get to tonight [in qualifying] and see what happens.”

Placing third, driver of No. 3 Dow Chevrolet for Richard Childress, Austin Dillon reached a top speed of 179.772 mph with a time of 30.839 seconds. Kurt Busch, driver of No. 1 ComSurv Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing, finished the 80-minute session fourth with a top speed of 179.405 mph and a time of 30.902 seconds.

Joe Gibbs teammates finished fifth through eighth on the speed charts. Denny Hamlin, last week’s Daytona 500 winner, topped the Joe Gibbs racing team, coming in fifth overall with a top speed of 178.931 mph and a time of 30.948 seconds. Placing sixth overall was Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, with a speed of 178.885 and a speed of 30.992 seconds. Coming in .218 seconds behind Truex Jr. was  Erik Jones, driver of the No. 20 DeWalt Toyota, with a top speed of 178.781 mph. Rounding off the Joe Gibbs racing team was Kyle Busch, driving the No. 18 Snickers Creamy Toyota, maxing out at a speed of 178.781 mph.

Shelby Foster
Jimmie Johnson watches the scoring monitor during the day’s only MENCS practice. The driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports placed 21st on the speed charts with a top speed of 177.761 mph and a time of 31.188 seconds. The cars will hit the track again at 5:10 p.m. to set the starting grid for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

“Everything drove like I thought it would,” Hamlin said. “We made one long run there to figure out what it was going to do.”

Hamlin drove the most laps in practice, running 27 laps with a top speed of 178.831 mph. The driver with the second highest amount of laps ran was Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford for Team Penske, with 26 laps and a best time of 178.729 mph.

Last year’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 winner Kevin Harvick finished the only practice session of the day 29th with a top speed of 176.313 mph. Seven-time MENCS champion Jimmie Johnson placed 21st maxing out at a speed of 177.761 mph.

“Everything drove like I thought it would,” Hamlin said. “We made one long run there to figure out what it was going to do.”

The biggest question for the day is how the newly implemented aero pack will affect the style of racing, and if cars are looking for pure speed or balance in their cars. However, single-car runs dominated the only practice session prior to qualifying later this afternoon.

MENCS qualifying is set to begin at 5:10 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.