Race Weekend Central

Erik Jones Leads, Groundhog Steals the Show in Opening NXS Practice

Typically, when drivers lose track time during a practice session it’s due to rain or a crash. However, in Friday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series practice at Michigan International Speedway, Erik Jones topped a session cut short by a rogue groundhog.

Jones’ 192.092-mph circuit early in the session held as the top time in practice for Saturday’s Menards 250 Presented by Valvoline. The NXS rookie is looking for his second win of the season after finishing second to Kyle Larson last weekend at Pocono Raceway.

Ty Dillon ended the session just behind Jones in second, with a speed of 191.882 mph. Joey Logano (191.714 mph), Paul Menard (191.296 mph) and Kyle Busch (191.215 mph) rounded out the top five.

Brendan Gaughan, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, and Justin Allgaier completed the top 10.

While the teams attempted to dial in their cars, the star of the session was – of all things – a groundhog.

Midway through the hour-long session, fans, drivers and media alike were surprised to see a camera focus on a groundhog running along the two-mile MIS backstretch. After a few drivers dodged the rogue groundhog, NASCAR put out a red flag to allow track workers to capture the wild animal.

What seemed like a small delay turned into a 12-minute wait for the NXS paddock as workers struggled to catch the groundhog. Two workers briefly captured the creature using a shovel and a bucket, but the groundhog escaped. The four-legged creature was finally captured using what appeared to be a track trash can after a 10-minute delay.

The groundhog was transported unharmed to a 65-acre parcel of land adjacent to the track.

The XFINITY Series will return to the racing surface for a second practice session at 3 p.m. ET

Results, via NASCAR

About the author

A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.

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