HAMPTON, Ga. – When you’re hot, you’re hot.
That’s a good way of describing how Saturday’s first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions wound up at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Last week’s winner at Bristol Motor Speedway, Joey Logano, was fastest in the practice in preparation for Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500.
Logano was the only driver to exceed 189 mph, turning a best lap of 189.351 mph.
Kevin Harvick, who earned his sixth pole position of the year in Friday’s qualifying session, was second-fastest at 188.328 mph.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third-fastest (187.843), followed by Denny Hamlin (187.405), Carl Edwards (187.215), Greg Biffle (186.679), Kasey Kahne (186.297), Jeff Gordon (186.153), Ryan Newman (186.034) and Jamie McMurray (185.915).
Jimmie Johnson was 11th-fastest (185.828 mph), followed by Marcos Ambrose (185.828), Kurt Busch (185.710), Martin Truex Jr. (185.517) and Tony Stewart was 15th-fastest (185.561).
— Danica Patrick was right behind her boss with the 16th-fastest speed (185.170 mph).
— Rookies Austin Dillon (185.127) and Kyle Larson (185.078) were 17th- and 18th-fastest, respectively.
— Kyle Busch’s struggles continued, as he was more than 5 mph off of Logano’s pace, coming in 22nd-fastest at 184.321 mph.
— Also struggling were two drivers who are trying to make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup: Clint Bowyer was 23rd-fastest (183.625 mph) and Brian Vickers was 25th-fastest (183.206).
— Two other big surprises were the struggles of Brad Keselowski (26th-fastest at 183.115 mph) and Matt Kenseth (29th fastest at 182.500).
Of course, things will be significantly different during Sunday’s race. Saturday’s practice was at the hottest part of the afternoon (before rain showers came through at the end of the session), while Sunday’s race will be held in the evening (green flag is 7:30 pm ET). There will also be one more practice session, the Happy Hour session, that begins at 6 pm ET.
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