After finishing second in four of the last five races, Kyle Larson is clearly tired of being a bridesmaid. So when it came time for practice on Friday at the Auto Club Speedway, Larson and his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet got off to a great start towards improving that by one spot Sunday.
Larson paced the field, setting a fast lap of 38.081 seconds (189.071 mph) to lead the session. Larson’s lap was faster than the current lap record, which is held by Denny Hamlin. Hamlin just so happened to be second fastest, .123 of a second off Larson’s time. Kevin Harvick was third quickest.
Larson’s teammate Jamie McMurray also posted competitive laps during his run. McMurray was fourth fastest in the opening round. Joey Logano’s lap left him fifth on the charts when the session was completed.
The same could not be said for the defending series champion and last year’s race winner Jimmie Johnson. Johnson’s Chevrolet was 24th overall after the round ended. Johnson went for a spin in turn 4 and tore up his car in the grass, forcing his Hendrick Motorsports team to go to a backup car. The team has opted to forgo qualifying in favor of trying to prepare the car for the race.
Other notable drivers were Martin Truex Jr. in 11th, Chase Elliott 12th, last week’s winner Ryan Newman in 15th, and Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch was 16th on the leaderboard. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who makes his 600th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend, was 19th on the board.
Qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will take place Friday at 7 p.m. ET. Catch all of the action in the Auto Club 400 on Sunday at 3:30 pm ET on FOX.