With less than 10 minutes to go, Kyle Larson posted a lap of 131.083 miles per hour to earn top honors in this morning’s first Sprint Cup practice session at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Larson, who finished 10th at Bristol in the spring, enters this weekend having to recover from a wreck last Sunday at Michigan that knocked him off of the Chase Grid with three races to go in the regular season.
The Chip Ganassi Racing rookie is 19th in the Chase standings at 24 points behind 16th-place Greg Biffle.
“After Michigan, finishing dead last there with that blown right front, that made us stress out a lot and now we kinda really have to get a win,” Larson told Fox Sports this afternoon. “I think that’s our only shot of getting in the Chase now unless we get Top-5s in these next three [races].
“But we’ve got a fast Target Chevy here in practice, so I think this could be a place where we could get a win.”
Three of the Top 5 drivers in first practice were powered by Hendrick engines – Larson, third-place Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (130.504), and fifth-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. of Hendrick Motorsports (130.132).
Running in second behind Larson was the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Denny Hamlin (130.557). A second Toyota driver, Michael Waltrip Racing’s Brian Vickers, wound up fourth on the speed charts (130.495).
Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson acknowledged this week that his company is trying to make up a power deficit before the Chase, but power should not matter so much this weekend at Bristol’s half-mile.
Aric Almirola of Richard Petty Motorsports was the fastest Ford in sixth (130.132). Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Bristol spring race winner Carl Edwards, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the Top 10 drivers.
Final Sprint Cup practice is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET.