NASCAR: Penske takes top three in first Cup practice at Gateway
Penske Fords dominated opening NASCAR Cup practice at World Wide Technology Raceway Friday night.
Joey Logano claimed the honor of posting the fastest lap in the first NASCAR Cup Series practice session at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
Logano wheeled his No. 22 Ford around the 1.25-mile oval with the quickest lap speed of 136.753 mph while his Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney (136.260 mph) and Austin Cindric (136.104 mph) followed in hot pursuit. At 136.096 mph, Kurt Busch was fourth and the fastest Toyota. Erik Jones was the fastest Chevrolet in fifth with a best lap of 136.001 mph.
Some teams battled left-rear tire issues during the 50-minute practice session, the longest afforded to teams since Daytona International Speedway in February. Hendrick Motorsports drivers William Byron and Alex Bowman each suffered flats, as did Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola and 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace.
Ben Rhodes, practicing the No. 16 Chevrolet for AJ Allmendinger who was busy practicing his Xfinity Series at Portland International Raceway, was the first to find serious trouble Friday evening. The defending Camping World Truck Series champion had an issue entering Turn 3 just 10 minutes into the session, sending him sliding hard into the outside wall and collecting right-side damage.
Parker Kligerman, making his first Cup start of the season, had his practice end early when his No. 15 Ford for Rick Ware Racing caught fire. Kligerman, who has competed in five Truck Series races this year, exited the car under his own power and was unharmed.
Completing the top 10 in practice were Tyler Reddick, Almirola, Larson, Ross Chastain and Kyle Busch in order.
Zane Smith, making his Cup debut in the No. 17 RFK Racing Ford as Chris Buescher sits out due to COVID protocol, was 26th-fastest at 134.332 mph.
|1||22||Joey Logano||Shell Pennzoil Ford||32.906||136.753||—.—||—.—|
|2||12||Ryan Blaney||Dent Wizard Ford||33.025||136.26||-0.119||-0.119|
|3||2||Austin Cindric||Menards/Atlas Ford||33.063||136.104||-0.157||-0.038|
|4||45||Kurt Busch||Monster Energy Toyota||33.065||136.096||-0.159||-0.002|
|5||43||Erik Jones||Bommarito Automotive Group Chevrolet||33.088||136.001||-0.182||-0.023|
|6||8||Tyler Reddick||3CHI Chevrolet||33.098||135.96||-0.192||-0.01|
|7||10||Aric Almirola||Built Ford Proud Ford||33.124||135.853||-0.218||-0.026|
|8||5||Kyle Larson||Valvoline Chevrolet||33.161||135.702||-0.255||-0.037|
|9||1||Ross Chastain||Moose Fraternity Chevrolet||33.165||135.685||-0.259||-0.004|
|10||18||Kyle Busch||Snickers Toyota||33.176||135.64||-0.27||-0.011|
|11||14||Chase Briscoe||HighPoint.com Ford||33.199||135.546||-0.293||-0.023|
|12||21||Harrison Burton||Ford/DAV Ford||33.228||135.428||-0.322||-0.029|
|13||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Freight Toyota||33.239||135.383||-0.333||-0.011|
|14||9||Chase Elliott||Hooters Chevrolet||33.277||135.229||-0.371||-0.038|
|15||4||Kevin Harvick||#BuschLightPolite Ford||33.29||135.176||-0.384||-0.013|
|16||24||William Byron||RaptorTough.com Chevrolet||33.357||134.904||-0.451||-0.067|
|17||23||Bubba Wallace||McDonald’s Toyota||33.366||134.868||-0.46||-0.009|
|18||42||Ty Dillon||Chevrolet Military Appreciation Chevrolet||33.377||134.823||-0.471||-0.011|
|19||6||Brad Keselowski||Solomon Plumbing Ford||33.378||134.819||-0.472||-0.001|
|20||3||Austin Dillon||Get Bioethanol Chevrolet||33.385||134.791||-0.479||-0.007|
|21||48||Alex Bowman||Ally Chevrolet||33.401||134.727||-0.495||-0.016|
|22||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||SunnyD Chevrolet||33.415||134.67||-0.509||-0.014|
|23||20||Christopher Bell||Rheem Toyota||33.47||134.449||-0.564||-0.055|
|24||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Reser’s Fine Foods Toyota||33.478||134.417||-0.572||-0.008|
|25||41||Cole Custer||Feeding America/Wow Wow Ford||33.495||134.348||-0.589||-0.017|
|26||17||Zane Smith(i)||Acronis Ford||33.499||134.332||-0.593||-0.004|
|27||34||Michael McDowell||WISE-EV Ford||33.517||134.26||-0.611||-0.018|
|28||31||Justin Haley||LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet||33.525||134.228||-0.619||-0.008|
|29||99||Daniel Suarez||Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge Chevrolet||33.526||134.224||-0.62||-0.001|
|30||7||Corey LaJoie||Built.com Chevrolet||33.563||134.076||-0.657||-0.037|
|31||38||Todd Gilliland||First Phase Ford||33.581||134.004||-0.675||-0.018|
|32||51||Cody Ware||Nurtec ODT Ford||33.807||133.109||-0.901||-0.226|
|33||16||Ben Rhodes||Gold Fish Casino Slots Chevrolet||33.933||132.614||-1.027||-0.126|
|34||77||Josh Bilicki||Zeigler Auto Group Chevrolet||33.992||132.384||-1.086||-0.059|
|35||15||Parker Kligerman||Scott Credit Union Ford||34.823||129.225||-1.917||-0.831|
|36||78||BJ McLeod||Blaster Ford||35.394||127.14||-2.488||-0.571|
Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell were made available to media after practice for the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway race this Friday:
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How is this race going to play out? Is it going to be decent or one-lane?
“I don’t know. Turns one and two, it seemed like were starting to widen out a little bit. Hopefully, we can have multiple lanes. (Turns) three and four will probably be a little bit of a challenge to have multiple lanes, but you never know. Our cars don’t like single lane tracks. They like ones that can spread out, hopefully, this one of the better short tracks that we have. It drives like a short track. It’s something that we certainly need to work on – short, flat tracks, it seems like the cars struggled, but you never know. This weekend could be different.”
Is the best comparison Phoenix or New Hampshire?
“Yeah, I think the tires are similar as well. My team told me that there is hopefully some stuff we are going to learn for those tracks here.”
Is this race important for the championship?
“Yeah, maybe, but we are so far off ways from it. Teams are still developing and learning like that, that I just don’t know you are going to take whoever runs up front here and say wow, they are going to be the championship favorite. There is just too much time between the two.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Reser’s Fine Foods Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How was practice?
“Not nearly as fun as I remembered. We were struggling there a little bit. I don’t know. It felt pretty and we were slow on the charts, so we have some work to do figure it out. We have 20 minutes now to get ready for tech. It’s going to be hard to figure out, but we will see. Tomorrow is a new day, so hopefully, they will make the right changes and we just debriefed and tried to figure out what we need to do. We will just have to see what happens.”
Is it nice to be able to make those changes unlike most weekends?
“We got to change a lot more in practice than we normally do. Unfortunately, we didn’t really hit on anything that helped it, so I don’t know if we would have been better off to have the old style. I don’t know. Short tracks have been a little tough this year for us to figure out this thing. I don’t think we have really gained on it much, but you never know. Track position is going to be important here, strategy, all of those things. Stay positive, keep working on it. Hopefully, we have a good qualifying run in the morning and make the car better for the race. Do a good job executing, which we haven’t been doing as well as we need to lately, but we are working on it, so we will see.”
Does the track feel like it has any characteristics of any other tracks?
“Not really. It’s kind of unique how this place is, especially with all of the shifting that we are doing. It’s unique track. The transitions into the corners, downshifting twice in turn one, it’s just really, really different. Once you get into the corner in three and four, it’s really similar to Phoenix, I think – other than it’s more bottom dominate. You can’t really move around as much. (Turns) one and two are not like anything we go to. Fun track when your car is working well, but we were off pretty far to start.”
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How do you like coming to a new facility?
“I think it is really good to change the schedule up. I’ve been a big proponent of going into new venues, going to new tracks. I think every year we should go to a new schedule – have different places to go, really diversify. Going to tracks, especially two times a year, like we’ve been doing, I feel like it dilutes the event. It would be really good if we could go to venues once a year or maybe every other year and just rotate the schedule to make every event more special and popular. I think it would make every race a bigger deal.”
Do things change for you when you go to new venues?
“It was definitely different today like talking to everybody – we didn’t know how to get into the infield. It is cool to go to new venues for sure.”
Did you find any quirks about this track besides the tight turn one and two?
“I ran the truck races here a couple of years ago and it was on the old pavement and now with the repave it was really smooth, but with (turns) one and two being super tight, your throttle application and brake application is really different than (turns) three and four.”
How was your practice overall?
“It was a struggle. I’m glad that we have time to work on the car now. This was probably one of our worst practice sessions of the year and now we have time to look at our teammates – I think some of our teammates were respectable. None of them are great, but at least get our stuff closer for tomorrow and Sunday.”