On Friday afternoon, the Sprint Cup Series teams took to Phoenix International Raceway’s 1-mile tri-oval for 85 minutes of practice. Unlike last week in Texas, the trend during the session was that drivers could still pump out fast laps on tires that had as many as 15 laps on them.
Late in the session, Jimmie Johnson turned in the fastest time of the session with a lap of 25.383 seconds (141.827 mph). That lap was just eight-thousandths of a second faster than Kyle Larson in second. Kurt Busch was the fastest of the Chasers in third, while Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top five.
Kevin Harvick had a little trouble finding pace early in the session, but picked it up late to turn in the sixth fastest time of the day. Kasey Kahne was seventh, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch.
Three of the Chasers ended up outside of the top 10. Joey Logano, who must win in order to advance, was 11th quickest. Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski was fastest early in the session, but unlike most of his competitors, could not find additional speed as the session continued on. Keselowski ended up 17th fastest, nearly three-tenths of a second slower than Johnson. Finally, Jeff Gordon was a disappointing 25th on the speed charts. In Gordon’s defense, the No. 24 team focused a little more on race runs than the rest of the Chasers since they’re already locked in to the Championship Round in Homestead. In that mode, Gordon did turn in the fastest 10-lap average at 136.389 mph.
The top 26 drivers turned laps within a half-second of Johnson’s chart-topper. Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart were both credited with 38 laps on-track, tops in the session.
With only 43 cars entered, no one will fail to qualify. Regardless, the teams towards the back of the field are quite a ways off the pace. Timmy Hill was the slowest out of the 43 cars on track with a lap over two seconds off the pace. Ryan Ellis, who will be making his Sprint Cup Series debut for Circle Sport on Sunday was 41st fastest, nearly 1.4 seconds off Johnson’s speed in his ScienceLogic Chevrolet.
Qualifying for the Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500k is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. tonight. The session will air live on NBCSN.
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