Joe Gibbs Racing has made the competition elevate its performance, wining eight races in the XFINITY Series in 2016. In the first practice session at Iowa Speedway, it was Ben Kennedy who had the edge over the JGR train of drivers, with a late lap of 132.448 mph, over a tenth of a second quicker than second place.
Sam Hornish, Jr., who returns to the driver’s seat for the first time since Homestead last November, laid down a lap early in the practice at 131.772 mph. Though his teammates got close, no team was able to top the No. 18 Toyota on speed until five minutes remaining in practice when Kennedy, making his XFINITY Series debut for Richard Childress Racing, jumped to the top, surpassing the JGR driver.
Erik Jones, two-time winner in 2016, was third quickest at 131. 739 mph. JR Motorsports’ Elliott Sadler, who won at Iowa in 2012, recorded the fourth fastest lap at 131.469 mph. Michigan winner and championship leader Daniel Suarez rounded out the top five at 131.381 mph.
Brad Keselowski is the only Sprint Cup regular in the field and was sixth at 131.277 mph.
Championship contender Ty Dillon was the first car outside the top 10 in 11th. Other notable drivers outside the top 10 include Justin Allgaier in 14th (130.375 mph) and Brendan Gaughan in 20th (129.694 mph). The No. 62 car finished second last year at Iowa.
In a bit of an eventful practice for JGR, Kennedy again led the way after making a qualifying run late in the practice. The No. 2 Chevrolet was more than two-tenths faster than his RCR teammate Gaughan.
The No. 62 car put on fresh tires midway through the session and put down a hot lap of 132.542 mph. Gaughan was 20th in the opening practice.
Hornish was third on the board at 132,231 mph.He led the way in both practice sessions for the Toyota camp.
With 38 minutes remaining in practice, a duo of JGR teammates Jones and Suarez got into each other when the No. 20 car hit a bump in the middle of the corner.
The contact caused damage to the left rear of the No. 20 car and caved in the right front fender, above the headlight from last weekends winner. Prior to the contact, each of the drivers put a lap down that remained in the top six on speeds.
Jones was fourth (132.159 mph), while Bowman (132.048 mph) split the middle of the No. 20 team and Suarez, who was sixth (131.987 mph). The No. 19 car ran 57 laps, the most of all drivers in final practice.
Sadler, Keselowski, Dillon and Jeremy Clements made up the top 10.
It was Keselowski who raced to the top of best 10 consecutive lap averages at 130.470 mph. Team Penske is looking for its first XFINITY Series victory since Texas last November.
Qualifying for the XFINITY Series is set to begin at 6:45 p.m. ET on Saturday with the American Ethanol 250 beginning shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon.
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