Entering the Chase as an underdog – or at least as much of one as he’s ever been – six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has something to prove in this season’s Chase. The six-time champion took the first steps toward showing he can contend by pacing opening practice at Chicagoland Speedway.
Johnson’s 29.383-second circuit stood as the top time in Friday’s lone practice for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, the first race of the 2016 Chase.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Carl Edwards (29.460) and Denny Hamlin (29.520) followed in second and third, with 2012 NSCS champion Brad Keselowski (29.564) and rookie Chase Elliott (29.578) completing the top 5.
Alex Bowman, Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch completed the top 10.
Chase contenders Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth ended the session just outside of the top 10 in 11th-13th.
Other Chase hopefuls to finish outside of the top 10 included Kurt Busch (15th), Joey Logano (17th), Tony Stewart (20th), Jamie McMurray (21st) and Chris Buescher (33rd).
The Sprint Cup Series will return to Chicagoland on Saturday for second practice at 10:30 a.m. ET.