Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Ganassi Racing drivers shine in NASCAR practice at Sonoma Raceway – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Ganassi Racing drivers shine in NASCAR practice at Sonoma Raceway – Santa Rosa Press Democrat
14 Nov

There are no actual prizes for finishing fastest in practice in NASCAR. But there’s certainly pride and momentum that can be taken into qualifying and race day, and that’s what Chip Ganassi Racing will carry into this weekend’s Monster Energy Cup Series showdown at Sonoma Raceway.

The team’s duo of Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch led the way in Friday’s final practice, holding the top two spots for the majority of the session heading into Saturday’s qualifying for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.

They each finished in the top 10 for best-lap averages across both sessions, with Larson holding the best average in the first practice.

Clint Bowyer recorded the fastest 10-lap average in the final practice at 93.416 mph, followed by Alex Bowman at 93.055 mph, then Larson, Denny Hamlin and series points leader Joey Logano.

Logano finished with the 12th-fastest time in the first practice and the 13th fastest in the final session. He recorded the fifth-best five-lap average in the final practice and later joked about the difficulty of the track for Team Penske.

“This place can piss me off like no other, believe me,” Logano said.

He said the newly reconfigured carousel turn is still a bit of a unknown, and he won’t be resting easy in scenic Wine Country with his team still trying to find more speed.

“You have a few laps (in the carousel) to try and figure out where you’re going and what you need in your car,” Logano said. “There are still a lot of unknowns until we race it.”

Teams worked on long race and qualifying runs in both sessions, with at least nine drivers recording more than 30 laps in final practice because the raceway has introduced the carousel in the interior of the track instead of the dog-leg “chute” for the first time since 1997.

Speeds recorded during both practice sessions point toward the track record for the 12-turn, 2.52-mile course possibly falling sometime during qualifying on Saturday. Mark Martin owns that record, with a 97.751-second lap at 92.807 mph in 1997.

But NASCAR research and development has advanced tenfold in the two decades since then, increasing the likelihood the record will fall.

Friday’s 1-hour, 20-minute practices were a new element for almost all of the drivers, with Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson the only active drivers who have ever raced the carousel turn.

Within the first minute or so of the first practice, the raceway appeared to have captured its first victim — Bubba Wallace, who spun out somewhere near the carousel.

The first drivers out in practice cautiously tackled the new course, hitting laps with an average of time of 98 seconds, before dropping the hammer as practice came to a close, with seven drivers recording lap times under 96 seconds.

Two-time race winner Martin Truex Jr. recorded the fastest speed in the first practice with a 95.168-second lap at 95.326 mph. Ryan Blaney was the second fastest with a 95.299-second lap at 95.195 mph and Chris Buescher was third with a 95.454-second lap time at 95.041 mph.

Three Hendrick Motorsports driver ran the most laps during the first session: William Byron at 27 laps, then teammates Alex Bowman and Chase Elliot each at 25.

Saturday’s qualifying starts at 12:10 p.m. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race follows at 1:45 p.m. Spectator gates open at 9 a.m.



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