A mix of qualifying and race practice runs led to a rather different from the norm leaderboard in the Sprint Cup Series’ only practice session before qualifying.
Leading the pack was Austin Dillon with a speed of 188.511 mph. In his third full time season, the driver of the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet is on track to have a career year and sits eighth in Sprint Cup points.
Right behind him was Martin Truex, Jr. with a lap at 188.432 mph. This second-place run in practice kicks off the return weekend of crew chief Cole Pearn, who was suspended for last week’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix.
Speaking of last week’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix, race winner Kevin Harvick only completed four laps but his lap at 188.304 mph was good enough for third on the board. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., another driver having a good season, was fourth.
Chris Buescher, who made his Sprint Cup debut in this race just one year ago, ended practice fifth in his No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford. Buescher, the 2015 Xfinity Series champion, comes into this weekend last among full-time Cup drivers in points (35th). He hopes to improve his career-best finish of 20th on Sunday, which he achieved last year at this racetrack.
A few other surprises in the top 10 included Kasey Kahne (sixth), Casey Mears (eighth) and AJ Allmendinger (10th). Jimmie Johnson, who leads all Sprint Cup Series drivers in victories at Fontana with five, ended the session seventh. Ryan Blaney was the second fastest rookie in the session behind Buescher in ninth. It’s the first race weekend for Blaney’s Wood Brothers Racing team at Fontana since 2008.
Full practice results can be found here.