Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s hold on the track record at Dover International Speedway is in serious jeopardy.
The two-time Daytona 500 champion set the Dover qualifying mark last fall with a 22.243-second blitz, but this morning’s first Cup practice session for the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks saw multiple drivers bury that.
Carl Edwards’ 21.851-second lap in the session was the first-ever Sprint Cup lap under 22 seconds at the Monster Mile. However, even that was eclipsed repeatedly in the closing minutes.
In the end, Kyle Busch came away with the fastest lap at 21.648 seconds (166.297 mph) in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and 29 cars had their fastest laps unofficially break Earnhardt’s record. It should all make for an intriguing qualifying session later this afternoon at 3:40 p.m. ET.
As for Edwards’ historic lap, that ended up sixth-best in the session behind the best laps from Busch, defending race winner Tony Stewart (21.738 seconds), rookie Kyle Larson (21.794 seconds), Ryan Newman (21.801 seconds), and Brad Keselowski (21.833 seconds).
Stewart summed up the matter perfectly in his post-practice interview with Fox Sports:
Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon, rookie Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, and Marcos Ambrose completed the Top 10.
Clint Bowyer logged the best consecutive 10-lap average in his first 10 laps of the session (157.305 mph), but was 13th overall with a fast lap of 21.894 seconds.