Chase Elliott found his second day on the track this spring at Bristol Motor Speedway a little more challenging than his first.
Elliott led the way in qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 on Friday, but he got into the wall very early on in the final practice session on Saturday. Fortunately, his Hendrick Motorsports crew got his No. 9 Chevrolet back onto the track, avoiding the need for a backup car which would cause him to give up the pole for Sunday’s race.
Kyle Larson, who finished second in both Bristol Cup races in 2018, had his own brush with the wall in Turn 2 while trying out the top groove. Attempting to find speed up high was a major theme of the final practice, one that contributed to a total of nine drivers running more than 100 laps. Two of them, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson, turned in the fastest and second-fastest times in the final session, with Johnson recording his quickest time on his 70th lap. Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones and Logano had the fastest 30-lap averages in final practice.
Another driver who had a close call was Ryan Preece, His No. 47 Chevrolet had a puff of smoke late in the last practice and had spotters for other teams telling their drivers to get out of the top groove for fear of fluid on the track.
However, Preece told the Fox Sports crew that it was likely a tire issue and not an engine problem with his race car.
“Something must be rubbing,” Preece said. “We’re hitting really hard on the racetrack right now when we run up top. I think we had a tire starting to go down, and we had a penalty, so we had to pull in either way.”
There was less drama in the day’s earlier practice session, which saw Jones and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin turn in the fastest times. Eleven cars laid down faster laps than Logano did in the afternoon, with only William Byron staying out for more than 100 laps. His teammate Alex Bowman only managed two laps in the morning, though he did follow with 102 in the afternoon.
Elliott and Byron will lead the Food City 500 field to the green flag from the front row on Sunday, followed by Ryan Blaney and Jones. Coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on FS1.