Kyle Larson proved there is still life outside of the final eight drivers in the Sprint Cup Chase on Friday, being the fastest in opening Martinsville Speedway practice with a lap at 19.289 seconds (98.170 mph).
Larson had made the Chase and was a somewhat popular dark horse contender last month before multiple problems in the first round cut-off race at Dover eliminated him from championship contention. In his five starts at Martinsville before this weekend, Larson has one top 5 – a third in this year’s spring race.
Five-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin was second. Joey Logano, who has three top 5s in the last five races at the Virginia short track, was third. Chase Elliott was fourth and Danica Patrick, who has an average finish of 22.6 at Martinsville, rounded out the top 5 in fifth.
Spring winner Kyle Busch was seventh on the board. Jeff Gordon, making his final scheduled start after 24 years in the Sprint Cup Series, finished eighth in practice. Jimmie Johnson was ninth and Kurt Busch was tenth.
Larson also had the best ten lap average speed, followed by Elliott and Gordon.
Brian Scott (39th) slapped the outside wall, but the team should be able to repair the damage. Other than that, there were no significant issues to report.
Full results can be found here.