It truly was a happy hour (actually, 100 minutes) of sorts for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was the fastest of the 19 drivers that took part in Friday’s final practice for Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt completed 49 laps around the 1.5-mile high-banked track, with his and the field’s fastest go-round coming on his 46th lap at a speed of 193.562 mph.
Brian Vickers was second-fastest at 193.382 mph, followed by Denny Hamlin (193.271), Kevin Harvick (193.023) and Greg Biffle (191.666).
Sixth- through 10th-fastest were Ryan Newman (191.415), last week’s race winner Jeff Gordon (191.198), Kyle Busch (191.191), Matt Kenseth (191.164) and Tony Stewart (191.063).
Carl Edwards was 11th-fastest (190.873), followed by Brad Keselowski (190.759), Jamie McMurray (189.880), Jimmie Johnson (189.707) and Joey Logano (189.660).
Rounding out the field was Kasey Kahne as 16th-fastest (189.135), Parker Kligerman (filling in for Kurt Busch, who was practicing for the Indianapolis 500) at 188.291 mph, followed my Martin Truex Jr. (187.259) and David Ragan (185.008).
Qualifying for the Sprint All-Star Race takes place Saturday at 7:10 pm ET, about two hours before the 30th annual running of the 90-lap, five segment event at 9:10 p.m. ET
The winner of Saturday’s non-points race still has plenty of incentive: a $1 million bonus for taking the checkered flag first.
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.
Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.
He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”
Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.
In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”
Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.
Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.