Posted 06/29/2012 at 01:32 PM
Kyle Busch laid down the fastest lap in Fridayís first practice session as 45 drivers prepare to qualify for Saturday nightís Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Busch topping the charts with a fast lap of 177.801 mph should come as no surprise, since he not only won the Inaugural Kentucky race last season, but was also fastest in two of the three practice session prior to winning.
There are only two practice sessions for this years race before qualifying begins later today at 5:10 pm (ET). The final practice session is schedule for 1:30 pm.
Dale Earnhardt Jr had the second fastest lap (176.817) of the 60-minute session, which in the process bumped teammate Jimmie Johnson to third fastest (176.540). Johnson was second fastest in a mock-qualifying run for exactly 30 seconds as Junior was right behind him.
Both Hendrick chassisí should be fast this week based on recent past history. Each of the cars ran in the Coca-Cola 600 and finished 11th or better (Junior 6th). Earnhardt Jrís car won the Sprint Shootout prior to the All-Star race and Johnsonís got a runner-up finish at Texas in April.
Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-5 fastest in practice. MWR Racing and Bowyer come fresh off a win at Sonoma while Truex Jr. looks to be able to use his set-up information from the similar track of Kansas, a place where he led 173 of the 267 laps before settling for a runner-up finish.
MWR should also have reason to be optimistic this year because David Reutimann finished second to Busch last season at Kentucky. If looking at similar tracks, Reutimann fared very well on these flatter 1.5-mile tracks that included a 2010 win at Chicagoland.
Their boss, Michael Waltrip, is participating this week because the race is in his home state. Waltrip took the No. 55 UK Wildcat themed Toyota to only the 27th fastest lap. Mark Martin and Brian Vickers have been fast weekly in that car, so the only reason for being slow thus far has to rest with the uneasiness of Waltrip getting back into the car.
The drivers put their fastest qualifying set-up on the track -- with no sandbagging, because it figures to be very cool at the latest juncture and the speeds from this first session will be used to determine qualifying order. The fastest in early practice goes out last, which should produce the highest speeds of the day.
The talk around the garages was how slick the track was.
Juan Montoya and Brad Keselowski smacked each other early in practice sending Keselowski into the wall. Keselowski got his back-up car off the hauler and was able to run a few laps just before the session ended.
No driver ran 10 consecutive laps during the session. Tony Stewart ran the most laps (21), but only had the 24th fastest lap.