Posted 03/24/2012 at 03:44 PM
One day after capturing the pole for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at California Speedway, Denny Hamlin laid down the fastest lap (186.018 mph) in race trim during Saturday’s first practice session. The speed was almost a full mph faster than Clint Bowyer had in Friday’s practice while in qualifying trim and fell just short of matching Hamlin’s top qualifying speed.
The reason for such fast speeds was because temperatures were in the high 50’s on an overcast foggy day. Some precipitation is expected today putting the final practice in jeopardy. Sunday’s race is also in jeopardy because there is an 80% chance of rain from noon to 9pm (PDT).
With the chance of rain being imminent, teams had to cram everything they could into this session because of the possibility that no final practice will be held.
Matt Kenseth, using a chassis the finished fourth at Texas last fall, ran the second fastest lap (185.209) and looks in great shape to possibly capture his fourth Fontana win.
The Stewart-Haas duo of Ryan Newman (184.928) and Tony Stewart (184.554) finished third and fourth fastest respectively with Kevin Harvick coming in with the fifth fastest speed (184.270 mph).
Most of the top speeds on the day were obtained at the beginning of the one-hour session with the coolest temperatures. Of the best 10 consecutive average laps run, the top-7 speeds all did so from lap 1-10 with Hamlin leading the way in that category as well, followed by Newman, Stewart, Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards.
For Edwards, his strong day has to be a sigh of relief after struggling the last three weeks in practice. Along with the good average speeds, Edwards also had the eighth fastest single lap (183.636) using a car that finished second at Phoenix last fall.
Most of the cars that were supposed to be fast, were fast. However, with the chance that this race could run Monday (rain expected too) or Tuesday, the data obtained today won't rate in like-instances just because it won't be as cool.
Top-5 Practice 2 Speeds:
1) Denny Hamlin 186.018
2) Matt Kenseth 185.209
3) Ryan Newman 184.928
4) Tony Stewart 184.554
5) Kevin Havick 184.270
Note: Brad Keselowski radioed to his team after practice that his car is the best it's ever been at Fontana. In his three starts, he's finished 21st, 26th and 26th. However, he did have the seventh fastest single lap and also made the same claim last week before winning at Bristol.