Kyle Larson tops first Sprint Cup practice at Richmond

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Driving the car that probably should have won last spring’s race at Richmond International Raceway, rookie phenom Kyle Larson took the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to P1 in today’s first practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at RIR.

Larson’s 21.280-second lap (126.880 mph) around the 3/4-mile bullring was set early on in the two-hour session, and it was able to stand up for the remainder.

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski came the closest to the 21-year-old with a time of 21.396 seconds (126.192 mph) in his No. 2 “Carolina Blue” Deuce.

The No. 42 camp should feel confident about their chances this weekend in the RVA. Last spring, Juan Pablo Montoya gave it a stellar drive and was on the verge of winning before a caution with five laps to go ultimately stopped him from claiming his first Sprint Cup win on an oval.

But while Montoya has since returned to IndyCar racing, Larson has proven to be a stellar freshman in Sprint Cup. He’s overcome a slow start to string together four Top-10 finishes in his last five outings, and could be a dark horse in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400.

Larson finished eighth and 14th in two Richmond starts last year in the Nationwide Series.

Fresh off his recent wedding in the Bahamas, Clint Bowyer was third-fastest in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota with a lap of 21.444 seconds (125.909 mph). Kasey Kahne was fourth on the charts (21.466/125.780), and the most recent Sprint Cup winner, Kevin Harvick, rounded out the Top 5 (21.527/125.424).

A second, one-hour practice will go off today at 1 p.m. ET, followed by qualifying for Saturday’s main event shortly after 5 p.m. ET.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP AT RICHMOND – FIRST PRACTICE TIMES

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski