Kyle Larson fastest in Friday’s first Sprint Cup practice session at Kansas; Almirola second, Bowyer third

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For those who believe rookie Kyle Larson is close to earning his first Sprint Cup victory, if it happens Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, you can point to Friday’s first practice session as laying the foundation for a potential win.

Larson was the fastest of the 44 drivers that took to the track on the 1.5-mile layout, and was also the only driver to exceed 189 mph, completing 61 laps with a best lap of 189.076 mph.

Aric Almirola was second-fastest (188.620 mph), followed by Emporia, Kan., native Clint Bowyer (188.528), who is still seeking his first career win at his “home track.” Bowyer will also be making his 300th career Sprint Cup start in Saturday’s race.

One of the biggest and most pleasant surprises was the performance of Dave Blaney. Even though he took just six practice laps, Blaney turned the fourth-fastest lap at 188.455 mph.

Blaney cut his on-track time short to also watch over son Ryan, who is attempting to qualify for his first-ever Cup race. Ryan Blaney was 17th-fastest, with a best one-lap speed of 187.104.

Kasey Kahne led all drivers with 63 laps and a top speed of 188.042 mph, good for fifth-fastest.

Sixth- through 10th-fastest were Greg Biffle (187.859 mph), Kevin Harvick (187.839), Joey Logano (187.813), Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon (187.800) and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (187.767).

All four HMS drivers were separated by just nine spots, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. 14th-fastest (187.435 mph).

The three-slowest drivers in the session were Reed Sorenson (183.007), Cole Whitt (182.630) and Timmy Hill (181.184).

The second practice session – one hour in length – begins at 2:30 pm ET. Check back with MotorSportsTalk for those results, as well as qualifying, which kicks off at 6:40 pm ET.

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An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing at Barber

SPOTTER GUIDE: All 29 of this weekend’s paint schemes

IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”