Hendrick Motorsports’ recent test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway appears to be paying off so far.
Defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was quickest in this morning’s first practice session at the Magic Mile. Johnson, who currently holds the top spot on the Chase Grid by virtue of his three wins, posted a lap of 135.313 mph to lead the 90-minute session.
Additionally, Johnson’s Hendrick teammate, Jeff Gordon, was third-quickest (135.164) in practice behind Johnson and Cup rookie Kyle Larson (135.212).
Larson’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, Jamie McMurray, and Kevin Harvick posted identical speeds of 135.131 mph to complete the Top 5.
In comments this morning, Johnson noted that Hendrick chose to test at New Hampshire earlier this summer because the team considered it to be their weakest Chase track.
NHMS will also host the second race of NASCAR’s 10-race playoff in September.
“It really was Chase-focused,” Johnson said of the decision. “I think there are multiple factors a team looks at in picking the tracks you go to [for testing]. If you [lock into the Chase] early, that helps your strategy and you can look more toward the end of the year.
“But something teams also look at is where we are the weakest as an organization.Where do the four crew chiefs and drivers get the most frustrated? For Chase-related race tracks, this is one of them for us.
“That’s why the decision was made as a group. All four drivers and crew chiefs agreed, ‘Yeah, let’s go do Loudon. We need to work there.'”
Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, defending race winner Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch made up Positions 6-10 in practice.
Qualifying for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 is set for 4:40 p.m. ET and that will be followed by two more Cup practices tomorrow (9-9:50 a.m. ET, 11:30 a.m.-12:25 p.m. ET).