In the practice session on newly redesigned and repaved Texas Motor Speedway, Ryan Blaney headed up to the top of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series leader board. Ryan Blaney was the first driver to exceed the 194-mile-per-hour mark with a lap of 194.182mph.
Michael McDowell was second-fastest in the Texas-based Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Chevrolet, clocking in at 194.056 mph. Texas native Chris Buescher, rookie Erik Jones and AJ Allmendinger (Buescher’s JTG Daugherty Racing teammate) completed the top five in the opening of on-track activity before Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (10:30 p.m. IST on DSport)
The extended two-hour, 25-minute session was designed to provide teams and drivers with extra practice time on Texas’ new configuration. Besides new pavement and drainage systems, the layout features re-profiled banking in Turns 1 and 2, lowered from a 24-degree grade to 20 degrees.
Keselowski posted the top speed of 181.281mph, 25-minutes in but as drivers became more comfortable with the track, the speeds rose. Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch and Stenhouse leap-frogged over the No. 2’s time.
Kyle Larson was fastest 40-miutes into the session (184.363mph, 29.170-seconds), but was quickly passed by Ryan Blaney (28.933-seconds, 14 laps), Stenhouse and Kyle Busch.
Speeds built incrementally through the session, which was marked by a handful of incidents. The hardest hit among those was by Jones, who flattened the side of his Furniture Row Racing No. 77 Toyota on the exit of Turn 4 at the practice’s two-hour mark.
Two teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing, which shares a technical affiliation with Furniture Row, also encountered problems. Denny Hamlin was the first, spinning his No. 11 Toyota and avoiding contact through Turns 1 and 2, early in the session.
With just under 13 minutes left in practice, Chase Elliott joined the unfortunate list, tapping the outside wall in Turn 2 before veering down to the inside retaining wall on the backstretch. His No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet sustained heavy damage, requiring a backup car for the balance of the weekend.
Six drivers were held out of the initial 15 minutes of practice because of penalties incurred last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Matt DiBenedetto, Elliott, Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were docked practice time because their teams failed pre-race inspection twice. Ty Dillon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were held for 15 minutes because they were late to pre-race inspection.
The practice was extended by two minutes after Elliott’s crash. Two more practices for the Monster Energy Series are scheduled for Saturday.