An XFINITY Series regular paced each practice session Thursday in preparation for Saturday’s Hisense 4K TV 300. It was a welcome boost for a division that has dealt with its share of Cup interlopers this season.
In practice one, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas took center stage. Erik Jones, a two-time winner this season and the series’ most recent visitor to Victory Lane (Dover) paced the field with a lap of 181.159 mph. That was good enough to be a tenth of a second quicker than his teammate, Cup Series regular Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin, whose speed was 180.584 mph was one of just two XFINITY teams to crack the 180 mph mark. Sprint Cup Series rookie, Ryan Blaney, was third-quickest but his lap dropped off to 179.874 mph. Daniel Suarez, the third JGR driver and Ty Dillon rounded out the top-5 speeds.
Austin Dillon, who swept both races at Charlotte in 2015, recorded the sixth-best overall time. Dillon is hoping for more qualifying success in 2016 after sitting on pole for both events last year. Cole Custer, Kyle Larson, then rookies Brennan Poole and Brandon Jones rounded out the top 10.
Jones, running for Richard Childress Racing circled the 1.5-mile oval for 24 laps, most of all drivers in the session.
In XFINITY Happy Hour the strength at the top transitioned from JGR to RCR. Ty Dillon, fifth in the earlier session charged up to lead the final practice by posting a speed of 181.342 mph. That landed about a half-tenth of a second above his closest competition.
Spending most of the first practice in qualifying trim, Dillon moved on to race runs in the final practice, running 48 laps. RCR ended the session confident they’ll be a contender for the pole with their flagship No. 3 team.
Sitting second was JGR as Suarez clocked in with a speed of 181.056 mph. Jones was third at 180.379 mph and admitted that the No. 20 team got his Toyota better throughout the day in race trim, focused more on Saturday’s main event.
The elder Dillon moved up to fourth on the board in the second practice at 180.210 mph. Series rookie Brennan Poole rounded out the top-5 drivers, clocking in with a speed of 179.958 mph.
2014 winner, Kyle Larson was 10th on the board about four mph off the pace. Last weekend’s Sprint All-Star winner, Joey Logano was right behind him in 11th.
Falling back to 13th was Blaney who ran 59 laps, most of all drivers. 40 cars made it on track; the No. 14 driven by Jeff Green and the No. 15 driven by Cody Ware, both underfunded operations chose to stay parked.
This second practice marked the last time the XFINITY Series drivers will be on the racetrack prior to qualifying Saturday morning.
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