In the dusk hours on a fall night in October, it was Kyle Busch who was quickest in the final Sprint Cup Series practice session before the Contender Round for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins at Charlotte. The 1.5-mile track has always been one of Busch’s better tracks and this weekend has been no different.
After qualifying second on Thursday night, the No. 18 was in full race mode on Friday. In the first practice session the Nevada native was 10th quick on the speed chart. With helping a tight racecar, Busch was able to lay down a lap of 189.354 mph, just ahead of brother Kurt Busch. The Busch brothers look to be two of the drivers to beat and clinch a berth in the Eliminator Round of the Chase and avoid Talladega.
The older brother who sits in the No. 41 will see the green flag from the sixth position, which is the lowest that the team has been on the speed chart all weekend long. Busch has one career win at Charlotte coming in the Coca-Cola 600 back in 2010.
The Stewart-Haas Racing team was also quickest in the best 10 consecutive lap average.
After putting up the third fastest time early in the practice session, Joey Logano looks comfortable behind the wheel of the No. 22. Based on speed the Ford of Logano looks to be one of the drivers to beat on Saturday. He has been top-five on the speed chart all weekend long.
Since his rookie season in 2009, the 25-year-old has always run well in NASCAR’s backyard and is looking for his first victory at one of his better tracks.
The “Rocketman” was fourth quickest in the final practice session on Friday. Since NASCAR implemented this Chase format in 2014, Ryan Newman has squeaked by in each round. After scoring nine career poles at Charlotte, the No. 31 team will begin Saturday from the 10th position. After having a poor run in Dover, Newman is looking to rebound with a strong finish to begin the second round of the Chase.
After reporting a vibration in the first session on Friday afternoon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. picked up the pace in final practice. The No. 88 team slotted into the fifth position and is looking good going into Saturday night.
Earnhardt squeaked by the first round of the Chase. However, the team feels good about their chances in moving on because in the three tracks in this portion of the Chase, Earnhardt’s worst finish in the spring was third.
Other Chase drivers feeling confident with their respective racecars and were among the top 10 in single lap speeds were Brad Keselowski (sixth), Carl Edwards (eighth), and Denny Hamlin (tenth).
Kevin Harvick had one of the quickest cars on the long run of a run was only 12th quick in the final session. The No. 4 team is the defending winner at Charlotte and after having a clutch walk-off win in Dover, the team will look to continue the momentum in defending their throne.
Martin Truex was 15th fastest after leading the most laps back in May during the 600-mile marathon. Jeff Gordon was 16th in his final practice session ever at Charlotte.
Polesitter, Kenseth finished Friday night’s practice session with some questions to be answered. The No. 20 put up just the 25th fastest lap and ran 48 laps in the final practice session. Kenseth was disappointed with the handling of his racecar and will look to continue his momentum as he is the hottest driver in NASCAR.
The fastest non-Chaser was Jamie McMurray in seventh. The winner of this race in 2010 got knocked out of the playoffs in a tiebreaker last weekend and his goal for the rest of the season is to finish fifth in points. That starts on Saturday in Charlotte.
After having a disappointing 41st-place finish at his best track last weekend, Jimmie Johnson is not able to compete for his seventh Cup championship in 2015. In his career, Johnson has had just seven races where he was not championship eligible. With seven races remaining this season, Johnson will likely be one of the most dangerous drivers going forward. He was 13th in the final practice, but one of the best on the long runs.
Johnson has seven-career wins in North Carolina.
There is a lot of pride at stake on Saturday night as well as a position up for grabs to move forward into the third round of the Chase. The majority of the practice sessions this weekend have been dominated by Chase drivers and they look to be the front-runners for Saturday’s Bank of America 500.