This new Texas Motor Speedway surface was kind to Ryan Blaney. The No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford led the way in the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice session on the reprofiled 1.5-mile track.
The second-year driver ripped around the fresh track in 27.809 seconds [194.182 mph]. Behind him was a surprise face in Michael McDowell, who finished second quick at 27.827 seconds, just 0.018 behind Blaney.
These two may have been happy, but the Friday afternoons got tough for a few of their competitors. It started early — really early — when Denny Hamlin spun in Turn 1. Hamlin, who was the first driver to hit the track in the opening minutes, ended 25th quickest after running 54 laps, most of the session.
The trouble wasn’t close to over for Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing, as teammate Kyle Busch repeating the act later in the session, except this time, lightly backing into the wall. The No. 18 will not go to a back-up car.
Erik Jones, who still finished fourth quick, had an issue on the opposite end of the circuit, getting out of the groove in Turn 4 before slamming the SAFER barrier wall hard. The crash came shortly before fellow youngster Chase Elliott crashed into the backstretch wall head-on after running wide.
Both driver will go to a back-up car in time for qualifying.
Chris Buescher, who turned the first laps ever on the track in a pace car last month, finished third quickest followed by JTG Daugherty teammate AJ Allmendinger in fifth, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kevin Harvick the top 10.