Clint Bowyer paced the field in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 23). It is the fourth of five on-track sessions that Bowyer has topped this weekend. The only exception has been the final round of qualifying on Friday.
Bowyer posted a speed of 179.104 miles per hour — the only driver to top 179 mph. He starts Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in third.
Kyle Busch (178.873 mph) ran the second fastest lap in the session, but it was all for naught. It rained sporadically throughout the session, and Busch hit a wet spot on the track, spinning into the outside wall in Turn 2. Busch will have to go to a backup car and give up his sixth starting spot for the race. Even worse, Busch had a good car over a long run as well. He had the best 10-lap average in the session by more than two-tenths of a second per lap before he crashed.
Austin Dillon (178.712 mph) was third fastest in the practice, while the Fords of Michael McDowell (178.672 mph) and Corey LaJoie (178.436 mph) rounded out the top five. Kurt Busch was sixth quickest, followed by Joey Logano and Daniel Hemric. Ryan Newman was ninth, while Martin Truex Jr. was 10th.
Erik Jones (176.882 mph) was 23rd quickest before losing his power steering and coming to the garage for repairs. The team was able to make repairs to Jones’ Toyota.
Brad Keselowski missed most of the practice because he was dealing with flu-like symptoms. Team Penske’s NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric practiced the team’s No. 2 Ford for the majority of the session. Keselowski climbed into the car near the end of practice to make one run in the car. The No. 2 ended up 28th in practice.
The new rules in effect have tightened the field. The top 29 drivers in the session were within a half a second of Bowyer’s quick time.
The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 will air on FOX on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. EDT