Posted 03/30/2012 at 06:10 PM
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Jeff Gordon thoroughly dominate a weekend practice schedule the way he did Friday in preparation for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. In the only two practices of the weekend, Gordon came out on top with the fastest individual lap of each.
Gordon not only had the fastest lap of 97.028 mph in the final session, but it was almost 2 mph faster than the second fastest, Kurt Busch (95.937). Brad Keselowski was third fastest (95.728) followed by Ryan Newman (95.550) and a surprising name in the mix, David Stremme (95.463).
For Keselowski, who just won two weeks ago on the half-mile track of Bristol, he ran the second most laps (113) of the session just behind Kyle Busch (116). Busch came in 29th fastest, well off his second fastest run from the early practice. Newman also showed in practice once again that his car is capable of capturing his first Martinsville win.
Jimmie Johnson, who struggled in the earlier session, improved dramatically to 13th fastest but still doesn’t have the look of past No. 48 practices at Martinsville.
What Jeff Gordon did today is close, or better, to the standard Johnson has set at over the last few seasons at Martinsville. The fact that we rarely see this type of practice out of Gordon should say something about the seven-time Martinsville winner's chances on Sunday. Gordon’s domination in speeds were reminiscent of his practice times from his early years at Sonoma.
Gordon was also fastest in average speeds among all drivers that ran at least 30 laps. Having another good show in this category was Kevin Harvick along with Keselowski, Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer.
For whatever it’s worth, Harvick also had the best 10-consecutive lap average followed by Gordon, Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr, Earnhardt Jr and Johnson.
In short track racing with lots of laps being run on a single tank of fuel, I usually throw out the 10-lap averages because it’s not enough data to go off of in the grand scheme of things. 10 laps is hardly enough data to form an opinion like at the bigger tracks. But in this instance, almost all the speeds correlate with the overall averages.
I’m not a fan of any particular driver, but I must say I was excited for Jeff Gordon giving us a blast from the past on Friday. He has easily surpassed Denny Hamlin, who struggled in the final session, as the favorite to win Sunday. It's also encouraging that Junior looks like he has a car that can win and end his 134-race winless streak. Should be a good show!
Top-5 Practice 2 Speeds
1) Jeff Gordon 97.028
2) Kurt Busch 95.937
3) Brad Keselowski 95.728
4) Ryan Newman 95.550
5) David Stremme 95.463