Remarkably NASCAR set a late schedule on Friday. The race on Sunday will be during the day, but Happy Hour was not run until 6 p.m. as the sun was starting to set. We’ve seen the opposite occurrence several times this year with daytime practices before an evening race, however, so teams have grown accustomed to making mental adjustments.
Still, the first practice session will probably be slightly more meaningful than Final Practice.
Typically speed on a similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track is found at the shop and not the track. Kansas Speedway is no exception and this is a course on which it pays to roll off the hauler fast.
Only nine drivers recorded 10 or more consecutive laps during the first practice session, so fantasy players should turn most of their attention to the five-lap averages. Daniel Suarez posted the quickest time on that chart in part because of an early fast lap that stood up until the closing minutes of the session.
Suarez fell off precipitously after five laps, however, losing .67 seconds from one mark to the other. Part of that may have been the timing of his pit entry, but over the course of the session he posted 29 laps and did not improve his time in any of those runs. Ultimately he landed 17th on the overall average speed chart.
Brad Keselowski posted the fastest single lap in the first session and backed that up with the second-quick, five-lap average. He won the spring Digital Ally 400 on this track by surging at the right time. Keselowski finished sixth in last year’s edition of this race, but his two prior starts land in the teens, so his odds are uncertain.
Larson was the best of the drivers who posted 10 or more consecutive laps. That is only part of the good news. Larson looked comfortable throughout the session and that was made more obvious by the fact that he had the second-longest consecutive laps of 20 circuits. From the five-lap mark to 20 laps, Larson fell off only .18 seconds to his longest run.
In the first session, Chase Elliott was the slowest among the playoff contenders on the five-lap chart. He posted a time of 31.253 seconds per lap, which landed 20th among 30 drivers who went that far. Elliott was also among the slowest drivers on the 10-lap chart during Happy Hour. In all likelihood he needs a win this week and that does not seem to be in the cards.
Watching practice on television can be tricky. You know what they are showing you, but you don’t know what you’re not seeing. However, in Final Practice the producers locked onto a battle between Joey Logano, Elliott, and Alex Bowman.
Logano was able to pass both of the Hendrick mates with ease. One of the most interesting moments came when Bowman pulled to the outside and when he did, he almost wrecked when the air pressure changed on the nose of his Chevrolet. That is something that is happening during every single lap during the race.
Kyle Busch did not look particularly strong in the first session, but he picked up the pace in Final Practice. He topped the five-, 10-, and 15-lap charts. The only concern is that the track conditions were remarkably different than he will face on Sunday. Then again, Busch doesn’t need a great finish in order to advance to Round 3.
The 15-lap chart was loaded with playoff contenders. Busch topped the chart with Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Logano rounding out the top five. Martin Truex Jr. and William Byron landed eighth and ninth on the chart.
On the 15-lap chart in Happy Hour, Elliott (12th of 20), Clint Bowyer (13th), and Keselowski (15th) were notably slow.