Kyle Busch fastest in first of two Nationwide Series practices on Friday at Fontana

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Kyle Busch – like you expected someone else, right? – was the fastest overall driver in Friday’s first of two Nationwide Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Busch, who won last week’s NNS race at Bristol, has been on a tear in NASCAR’s junior circuit. In addition to his win at Bristol, he also won at Phoenix, was second at his hometown track in Las Vegas and his overall “worst” NNS finish thus far this season was fourth in the 2014 opener at Daytona.

Busch was the only driver over 174 mph in Friday’s first session at 174.157 mph, followed by three fellow Sprint Cup drivers, Kevin Harvick (173.519), Joey Logano (173.281) and Matt Kenseth (173.244).

The fastest full-time NNS driver was Trevor Bayne (172.678).

Only 35 cars practiced for Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300. The slowest was Carlos Contreras at 153.866., more than 21 mph behind Busch’s speed.

Here’s the results for Friday’s first of two practice sessions for the NASCAR Nationwide Series:

1 Kyle Busch 174.157

2 Kevin Harvick 173.519

3 Joey Logano 173.281

4 Matt Kenseth 173.244

5 Trevor Bayne 172.678

6 Chase Elliott 172.616

7 Dylan Kwasniewski 172.509

8 Brian Scott 172.505

9 David Ragan 172.191

10 Regan Smith 172.125

 

11Ty Dillon 172.101

12 Kyle Larson 171.916

13 Brendan Gaughan 171.572

14 James Buescher 171.249

15 Elliott Sadler 171.221

16 Mike Bliss 171.127

17 JJ Yeley 170.503

18 Ryan Sieg 170.189

19 Ryan Reed 169.960

20 David Starr 168.741

 

21 Chris Buescher 168.512

22 Dakoda Armstrong 168.496

23 Landon Cassill 168.476

24 Jeremy Clements 168.366

25 Mike Wallace 168.004

26 Matt DiBenedetto 167.348

27 Jamie Dick 167.123

28 Josh Wise 167.030

29 Tanner Berryhill 166.995

30 Kevin Lepage 166.459

 

31 Jeffrey Earnhardt 165.468

32 Eric McClure 165.225

33 Daryl Harr 162.848

34 Joey Gase 161.478

35 Carlos Contreras 153.866

 

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MRTI: Barber Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires was a tale of two completely different days.

Saturday was a picturesque Spring day for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, with bright sunshine and temperatures above 70 degrees. Sunday, however, was much cooler and wetter, with rain hitting both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights races.

Still, the packed weekend for both series produced plenty of drama, and each now sees its championship picture beginning to take shape.

Major stories to surface from the weekend at Barber for both series are below.

Indy Lights

  • Pato O’Ward has been, by a considerable margin, the fastest driver after four races in 2018. A winner of three races – which easily could be four if not for a mistake while leading Race 2 in St. Petersburg – and a polesitter for two, O’Ward has asserted himself as the early-season man to beat in the title chase, leading Santi Urrutia with 110 points to 94. O’Ward already has big-league championship to his name – he was a co-champion of the Prototype Challenge class in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship last year, and he is poised to add to that in 2018.
  • Victor Franzoni is starting to get his arms around the IL-15. Last year’s Pro Mazda champion gets better with every race, and he earned his first Indy Lights podium in Race 2 at Barber, finishing second. It would hardly be a surprise if Franzoni breaks into the win column soon.
  • Aaron Telitz’s run of hard luck continued in Race 1 on Saturday, as he was collected by a spinning Dalton Kellett and retired from the race with a damaged right-front. That meant through three races, Telitz had completed a combined four corners. Race 2 finally produced a clean day for the 2016 Pro Mazda champion, as he ran all the laps on his way to finishing fourth.
  • Colton Herta scored a double-podium at Barber, with finishes of second and third. Sitting on 83 points, he is 19 back of leader O’Ward. He’ll need to break into the win column to make up ground, but consistently finishing on the podium will also help his efforts, and prevent O’Ward from making big leaps away from him.

Pro Mazda

  • Although he might be disappointed to miss out on sweeping the weekend, Parker Thompson has lots of reasons to smile leaving Barber, as he overtook Rinus VeeKay for the championship lead by four points, 102 to 98. Thompson has had two strong weekends to open the Pro Mazda season, with finishes of second, fifth, first, and second after four races. He and VeeKay have emerged as possible title combatants after the opening two weekends.
  • Speaking of VeeKay, the 17-year-old Dutchman had a quiet weekend at Barber, with finishes of fourth and fifth after lacking pace in qualifying – he qualified seventh and ninth for Race 1 and Race 2. After dominating at St. Pete, VeeKay’s lack of pace was somewhat puzzling, though it could be indicative of a Pro Mazda field that is deep with talent. Expect him to rebound at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in May.
  • Oliver Askew’s troublesome start to the 2018 season only got worse at Barber, with finishes of seventh and 12th on a weekend in which he never factored into the outcome. The struggles of him and Cape Motorsports is mystifying given their prowess in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on their way to winning the championship last year. Getting into championship contention at this point is a tall task – he is 46 points behind Thompson – but righting the ship will be priority No. 1 for him and Cape heading to Indianapolis.
  • Harrison Scott enjoyed a great rebound after struggling in St. Pete, where he finished ninth and 12th. He took his first Pro Mazda podium in Race 1, finishing second, and then survived a chaotic and rainy Race 2 to take his first victory. The successful weekend also vaulted him into fourth in the championship.
  • David Malukas has also put together a solid season through four races, with finishes of seventh, second, third, and fifth. The BN Racing driver sits third in the championship, and may well end up challenging for race wins soon.

All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy will be in action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course during the weekend of the INDYCAR Grand Prix (May 11-12), with USF2000 returning after a two-month break following the season opener in St. Petersburg.

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