Posted 03/23/2012 at 05:29 PM
Clint Bowyer jumped out early with the fastest lap of the first Auto Club 400 practice session at California Speedway in his first attempt. The lap of 185.109 mph was enough to hold on to the top speed despite another 85 minutes of practice from all the other drivers. 19 of the 46 drivers attempting to qualify this weekend followed suit with their fastest lap of the day coming in their first attempt.
The strategy for most teams was to get out early in qualifying trim before the track heated up in hopes of getting the top speed which designates when drivers will qualify today. The better their practice, the later they get to qualify and take advantage of a cooler surface in the late afternoon.
Michael Waltrip Racing’s fast cars weren’t limited to just Bowyer. Fresh off having all three of their cars finish in the top-5 at Bristol last week, they had the top two speeds in practice with Mark Martin laying down the second fastest lap of 184.322 mph at almost the same juncture Bowyer had his fastest lap. Martin Truex Jr finished with the 18th fastest lap.
Kasey Kahne was the lone exception among drivers in the top-6 who captured their fastest lap right out of the gate. Kahne had the third fastest speed (183.946), but did it on the last of his 16 laps run on the day. Following Kahne was Brad Kieslowski (183.290), Denny Hamlin (183.187) and Jeff Burton (183.169).
No driver ran 10 consecutive laps or more during the session as they will look to maximize their race set-ups in Saturday’s final two sessions. Friday’s qualifying is set to begin at 4:10 pm (PDT).