Gibbs teams in position to contend at Bristol

Leave a comment

Joe Gibbs Racing’s trio of Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch haven’t been able to break into Victory Lane so far this season. But judging from their pace this weekend, it appears that they’ll be in position to get on the board in 2014 during tomorrow’s Food City 500.

Bristole Motor Speedway has been good for JGR, which has won six of the last 10 races there. Additionally, in each of the last three years at Bristol, a JGR driver has won: Busch in 2011 (spring race), Hamlin in 2012 (night race), and Kenseth last year (night race).

And it looks like they’ll threaten to stretch their current streak into a fourth consecutive year. Hamlin’s track record pole run and relatively solid showings in practice this weekend (third in Practice 1, sixth in Practice 2) makes him a contender.

But Kenseth, already a three-time winner at Bristol, has also been steady this weekend after winding up 30th in the first practice session. He bounced back from that to qualify third yesterday, and was P4 and P2 in this morning’s two practice sessions.

Then there’s Busch, who has claimed five Bristol wins in his career (a feat his older brother, Kurt, also shares). “Rowdy” was forced to go to a backup car after damaging his primary in the first practice, but has still maintained good pace and will roll off from within the Top 10.

Here’s a few others that could be worth watching over tomorrow’s 500-lapper in Thunder Valley:

Ryan Newman (starting ninth)
Not a bad start for the Brickyard 400 champion at Richard Childress Racing (back-to-back Top-10s at Phoenix and Las Vegas), and he’s been toward the top in all of the practices (including P1 in the second session).

Kurt Busch (starting 13th)
If any track can help the Outlaw get in gear after a disappointing beginning to 2014, it’s Bristol. He’s been P1, P3, and P5 in the practices. Don’t be surprised to see him leading the Stewart-Haas armada tomorrow.

Kevin Harvick (starting 27th)
Track position will not be his friend to start, but he appears to have a good pace on the No. 4 car (Top-10 in the second and third practices). Good races can go ugly in an instant at Bristol, so he’ll have to be doubly concerned as he tries to move through the field.

Martin Truex, Jr. (starting 29th)
Like Harvick, Truex had a poor qualifying session but has been reasonably quick in practice (P9, P8, and P6). It’s been a slow start in his new environment at Furniture Row (25th in points after three races), so he needs a good run.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

3 Comments

With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.

Results are below. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rolls off at 3:00 p.m. ET.